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Dr. Charles McCoy
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THE GUP OF FUR?
CHANNEL PRESS INC., GREAT NECK, NEW YORK
Copyright © 1956 by Upton Sinclair.
Published in March 1956 by Channel Press, Inc.
1 59 Northern Boulevard, Great Neck, New York.
Printed in the United States of America.
first printing: march 1956
second printing: may 1956
third printing: july 1956
fourth printing: august 1956
I wish to thank the publishers of the following
copyrighted works for permission to quote therefrom*.
Jack London, John Barleycorn (Appleton-Century Crofts,
Inc., 35 West 32nd Street, New York 1, N.Y.)
Susan Glaspell, The Road to the Temple (Ernest Benn, Ltd.,
1 54 Fleet Street, London E. C. 4, England)
Van Wyck Brooks, The Confident Years (E. P. Dutton &
Company, Inc., 300 Fourth Avenue, New York 10, N.Y.)
William Seabrook, Asylum; Louis Untermeyer, Modern
American Poetry (Har court, Brace & Company, 383 Madison
Avenue, New York 17, N.Y.)
Edna St. Vincent Millay, A Few Figs From Thistles (Harper
& Brothers, 49 East 33rd Street, New York 16, N.Y.)
Brom Weber, Editor, The Letters of Hart Crane, 191 6- 1932
(Hermitage House, Inc., 8 West 13th Street, New York n,
Henry Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy; Robert H.
Elias, Theodore Dreiser, Apostle of Nature; Charles Angoff,
Editor, The World of George Jean Nathan (Alfred A.
Knopf, Inc., 501 Madison Avenue, New York 22, N.Y.)
William Seabrook, No Hiding Place (Copyright 1942);
Stanley Walker, City Editor (J. B. Lippincott Company, 227
South 6th Street, Philadelphia 5, Pa.)
John Malcolm Brinnin, Dylan Thomas in America (Little,
Brown & Company, 34 Beacon Street, Boston 6, Mass.)
Hart Crane, Collected Poems of Hart Crane, Including The
Bridge (Published by Liveright Publishers, New York; copy-
right 1933 Liveright, Inc.)
Isadora Duncan, My Life (Published by Liveright Publishers,
New York; copyright R 1955 Liveright Publishing Corpora-
tion, 386 Fourth Avenue, New York 16, N.Y.)
Ben Hecht, A Child of the Century (Simon & Schuster, Inc.,
630 Fifth Avenue, New York 20, N.Y.)
Helen Dreiser, My Life With Dreiser (World Publishing
Company, 2231 West 110th Street, Cleveland 2, Ohio)
Robert Straus and Selden D. Bacon, Drinking in College
(Yale University Press, 143 Elm Street, New Haven 7,
I also want to thank, the publishers of the following
periodicals for permission to quote from the indicated articles:
Atlantic Monthly, "The Incorruptible Sinclair Lewis," by
Perry Miller (April, 195 1)
New York Times, obituary on Maxwell Bodenheim (Febru-
ary 8, 1954)
New Republic, "The Violence of Dylan Thomas," by Hans
Meyerhoff (July if, 1955)
The Reporter, "A Luncheon With Dylan Thomas," by Mary
Ellin Barrett (April 27, 1954)
World, Maclean-Burgess news story (January, 1954)
THE GIF OF FIST
No writer in our century has known greater acclaim
than an idolizing public accorded Jack London at the peak
of his popularity. Whenever he made a public appearance,
vast crowds swarmed to hear him speak. He was one of a
very few whose work drew an enormous following in the
popular magazines, and was equally admired by serious
literary critics, sociologists, and philosophers. He had legions
of friends in every country, and an unmatched zest for liv-
ing. An unparalleled story-teller, London was also a social
philosopher of the first rank, spearheading many of the great
social and industrial reforms which by mid-century have be-
come the law of our land.
In 191 3, the year before World War 1, Jack London
published a little book entitled John Barleycorn. It was a
gallant work in which he told the story of a life of wild
drinking, beginning incredibly enough at the age of £ve,
12 THE CUP OF FURY
and continuing more than thirty years. In this slim volume
he described what he called "the Long Sickness" and "the
White Logic" — respectively, the pessimism and the skepti-
cism produced by alcoholism — and when he came to the
end, he summed up his conclusions with these words:
Mine is no tale of a reformed drunkard. I
was never a drunkard, and I have not reformed. . .
No. . . I shall take my drink on occasion.
With all the books on my shelves, with all the
thoughts of the thinkers shaded by my particular
temperament, I have decided coolly and deliber-
ately that I should continue to do what I have
been trained to want to do. I will drink — but
oh, more skillfully, more discreetly than ever be-
fore. Never again will I be a peripatetic confla-
Thus, proudly, Jack London concluded his story. He
went on with his drinking, "more skillfully, more discreet-
ly," for two or three years. And then at the age of forty he
gave his last word on the subject of liquor by taking his own
He was one of my cherished friends, a fellow worker
in the cause of social justice; and although only a year and a
half older than myself, a hero to me personally. I have never
ceased thinking about him; I have never ceased to regret
that I did not know how to help him. And recently I have
come to believe that perhaps I can at least assist others by
writing a parallel study of the effects of alcohol on the many
drinking writers I have known.
As London did, I shall often talk in terms of "John
Barleycorn" instead of employing the technical phraseology
of current discussions of alcoholism. I do this because I be-
lieve it is sometimes easier to fix one's focus on a symbol or
THE CUP OF FURY 1 3
on a personification rather than on impersonal statistics and
I will write as one who has had but three or four sips of
liquor in his life; as one who was early warned away from
alcohol. It was my fate to be raised in a virtual sea of liquor.
First it was my father. Then no fewer than three of my un-
cles — proud Southern gentlemen, one of them a naval hero.
Then one friend after another, colleagues and writers, many
of them famous and all of them destroying themselves.
I compile a list of the victims I have known, and there
are seventy-five names; I should say that thirty of them are
known to most literate Americans; a dozen are known
throughout the literate world.
I say it is a frightful thing that so much of the talent
and genius of America should have been distorted by alco-
holic poisoning. These are indeed men and women who have
to a great extent set the intellectual and moral tone of our
time. They are among the few who have achieved fame and
fortune; they have won both the critics and the readers.
Most of them started with vision and courage, but in the end
the example they give us is of sickness of mind and soul.
They have helped bring about an America in which
people feel they "must" drink. And America is drinking,
more than ever before in our recent history. In the old days
we bought it in saloons; now we buy it in groceries, drug-
stores, package stores, drive-ins and state-operated establish-
ments. A huge advertising subsidy brings the allurements
of rye and bourbon, vodka and gin, rum and Scotch, bottled
cocktails and "spiked" fruit-drinks before everybody in the
land. At the same time we have a crime wave forever rising.
Many of the criminals are youths, and some are children;
their acts are frequently associated with drinking bouts.
Someone has to speak out on this subject. For recording
14 THE CUP OF FURY
the sorrows and agonies of my fellow-writers I expect no
applause, and am prepared to dodge the stale tomatoes. Let
me say now, therefore, that it has never cost me the slightest
effort to decline a drink; explicitly and thankfully, I claim
no particle of credit or superiority because I escaped the
clutches of liquor. Just as emphatically let me state that I
do not point a finger to degrade memories and defame men;
these were people who suffered from a dreadful disease. Their
stories, I believe, may have the impact of an antitoxin.
I cannot help the old; I know, because I have tried again
and again. They tell me they could quit if they wanted to,
but they can't "want to." Even when they are in agony and
want to escape, they need a drink first; and that first is
never the last.
Now it is a question of giving information to the young.
I tell myself that among the seventy- four percent of college
students who drink today there may be a future Jack London
or O. Henry, a future Sinclair Lewis or Scott Fitzgerald.
It is for them that I am writing. I will tell in this book
what I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own
ears, often from the lips of the victims. First in Baltimore
and then in Virginia, later in New York and then in many
parts of California, it has been my fate to live among drink-
ing people: novelists, poets, playwrights and stars of stage
and screen. I have seen two-score of them go to their doom,
eleven as suicides.
So much of what I write will be a story of sorrow,
multiplying and increasing itself, that I want to begin it with
a story of hope; I want to point to the promise of this book.
And to do that, I must tell you a bit about myself.
I was brought up as an ardent little Episcopalian boy.
At the age of fifteen I was teaching Sunday School classes
at the Church of the Holy Communion in New York, and
THE CUP OF FURY 1 5
I went to church every afternoon during Lent: not because
I was told to, but because I wanted to. I read the Bible
straight through, and its language and imagery became a
part of me. I received from the church two gifts which I
count priceless — personal habits of abstemiousness, and an
attitude of moral earnestness toward the problems of human
When I set seriously to work to learn foreign languages,
I chose the New Testament as my first textbook; not merely
did it save me from frequent, interrupting dashes to a dic-
tionary for help, but I found it fascinating to see how the
golden words looked in Latin and Greek, French, German
and Italian. I read it from Matthew to Revelation in each
of these languages, and I commend the practice to students.
As a result, many of the texts are as familiar to me as my
own name, and you will find them scattered through most
of my sixty-five books and numerous pamphlets.
I have never doubted that this is a spiritual universe;
and if I cannot understand exactly how that can be, and
how God works, it must be because God has chosen to have
it that way. In my youth I experienced excitements which
I took to be inspiration. I didn't know how or why they
came, but it seemed as though a hand were lifting me up and
guiding me. Even now, in my old age, I go out in my garden
and walk, and a chapter of a new book I am writing unrolls
itself in my mind. I cannot tell how it happens, but there
it is: and it is always a marvelous thing to me. All problems
of construction are answered, and all I have to do is remem-
ber the words until I have written them down. This much I
can say, and be sure: that I am performing an act of crea-
tion, the very essence of life.
When I was running for Governor of California in
1934, some of my opponents found it politically useful to
1 6 THE CUP OF FURY
call me an "atheist." One old gentleman was prompted by
these accusations to send me a long questionnaire, demanding
that I fill it out. I was glad to oblige him. His first question
was, "Do you believe in God?" My answer was, "Yes." He
next demanded, "Define God." And I replied, "The infinite
cannot be defined." I knew that this answer might not be
satisfactory to my correspondent, but it seemed clear to me
that since God is Spirit, and infinite, He has not dimensions
which can be neatly defined in a questionnaire. I took it that
God, who has put me on this earth and given me power to
understand and seek for understanding, meant for me to
I had what I believed was a God-given vision of a world
without poverty and war, destroyers of God's children, and
I was laboring to make that vision real to my fellow men.
Often I failed, lamentably, in my efforts. There came pov-
erty, debt, illness, sorrow. Sometimes I felt that I had made
a fool of myself; sometimes I was tempted to imitate Job's
impatient advisors, and blame God for the way He treated
me. In this mood, it was no longer enough to say that I
believed this to be a spiritual universe; I had to make the
words real to myself, I had to make them count in my own
troubled life. I had to reexamine what I believed about
prayer. I had learned the ancient Dominican prayer that
"to work is to pray," and I worked; but it was not enough.
Now I asked God to give me courage, resolution, and hope —
and behold, I had these things, these wonderful gifts of the
mind and spirit without which men are as the "dumb, driven
And it was the same with my beloved wife. For two
decades she stood at my side, doing the work of several per-
sons: making me a home and keeping it; revising my manu-
scripts, and urging me not to write so hastily; keeping me
THE CUP OF FURY 1 7
out of debt, or trying to; warding off the parasites and cheats
who swarm about every reformer and public man.
Then her health began to break under the strain, and she
took me off to a hiding-place and set out in search of her own
soul. She read the leading scientists of our time: Jeans and
Eddington, Whitehead and Carrel, all of them religious men.
She read everybody who could throw light on the mysteries
of the human soul, from Gerald Heard to Mrs. Eddy. She
met William McDougall and J. B. Rhine and Albert Einstein,
and discussed these questions with them, knowing that each
of these men possessed a deep belief in God.
She learned a better way of prayer, and she learned to
control her own mind in many useful ways: she won back
her health, and would have kept it, except that again and
again she tried to do more than any one woman could do.
A year or more ago she had a heart attack, the kind
which doctors call "congestive." She was in terrible pain,
and I thought she was dying; she thought it too, and she
could not bear to think of what fate she would leave me to,
In that crisis I did not stop to argue any theological
questions. I did not debate the exact nature and definition
of God with the theologians.
I prayed. I prayed just one thing, over and over and
over. I prayed, "Dear God, help her! Dear God, save her!"
I prayed alone and incessantly, all that dreadful night.
We were in a remote place and there was no doctor; no one
to help us, no one to know; just God. You perhaps know
the story of the Frenchman who prayed, "Dear God, if there
be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul." I did not follow
his example. I did not put in any "if V
My wife declares that these prayers saved her life. The
skeptics will say, of course, that she heard my prayers, and
1 8 THE CUP OF FURY
that the realization of my love and need revived her will
to live and increased her ability to endure the pain. I won't
argue with the skeptics. I will simply say that God made
psychology, too, just as He made all other things — the
human mind as well as the human body. And the way they
work is the way He works. If prayer gives you courage and
hope and love, then what I say is "Thank God!"
There, in this book of sorrow, lies the hope.
I am able to say to alcoholics: Prayer will help you,,
your own prayer and others'.
This is what Alcoholics Anonymous has found, and
what they tell themselves and all who come to them for help.
They invite the drinker and the drunkard "to believe
that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity."
They invite those in the depths of despair and dissolution
"to make a decision to turn your will and your life over to
God as you understand Him."
I put before the public this tragic record of a half-
century of American genius, twisted and tortured by al-
cohol. I ask that it be read with one fact always in the back
of the reader's mind: the fact that three out of four of the
students in college today are drinkers. I want them to know
this story; I want them to see that the chains of the despot
are easy to assume when one is young, and of unimaginable
hardness to break in later years.
I ask if this is what they want out of life.
And I offer them hope.
I begin this personal part of my book by quoting the
first three pages of a novel called Love's Pilgrimage, pub-
lished almost fifty years ago. It has an old-fashioned ring
to it, I'm afraid; yet there is probably no better way for me
to show how my attitudes toward alcohol were formed. I
wrote Love's Pilgrimage soon after my father's death. This
story is one which we lived.
It was the Highway of Lost Men.
They shivered, and drew their shoulders to-
gether as they walked, for it was night, and a
cold, sleety rain was falling. The lights from
saloons and pawnshops fell upon their faces —
faces haggard and gaunt with misery, or bloated
with disease. Some stared before them fixedly;
some gazed about with furtive and hungry eyes
20 THE CUP OF FURY
as they shuffled on. Here and there a policeman
stood in the shelter, swinging his club and watch-
ing them as they passed. Music called to them from
dives and dance-halls, and lighted signs and flar-
ing-colored pictures tempted them in the entrances
of cheap "museums" and theatres; they lingered
before these, glad of even a moment's shelter.
Overhead the elevated trains pounded by; and
from the windows one could see men crowded
about the stoves in the rooms of the lodging
houses, where the steam from their garments made
a blur in the air.
Down this highway walked a lad, about
fifteen years of age, pale of face. His overcoat
was buttoned tightly about his neck, and his
hands thrust into his pockets; he gazed around
him swiftly as he walked. He came to this place
every now and then, but he never grew used to
what he saw.
He eyed the men who passed him; and when
he came to a saloon he would push open the door
and gaze about. Sometimes he would enter, and
hurry through, to peer into the compartments
in the back; and then go out again, giving a wide
berth to the drinkers, and shrinking from their
glances. Once a girl appeared in a doorway, and
smiled and nodded to him. Her wanton black
eyes haunted him, hinting unimaginable things.
Then, on a corner, he stopped and spoke to
a policeman. "Hello!" said the man, and shook
his head — "No, not this time." So the boy
went on; there were several miles of this High-
way, and each block of it the same.
THE CUP OF FURY 21
At last, in a dingy bar-room, with saw-dust
strewn upon the floor, and the odor of stale beer
and tobacco-smoke in the air — here suddenly
the boy sprang forward, with a cry: "Father!"
And a man who sat with bowed head in a corner
gave a start, and lifted a white face and stared
at him. The man rose unsteadily to his feet, and
staggered to the other; and fell upon his shoulder,
The man clung to him, weeping and pouring
out the flood of his shame. "I have fallen again.
I am lost, my son, I am lost!"
The occupants of the place were watching
the scene with dull curiosity; and the boy was
trembling like a wild deer trapped. "You must
"You still love me, son?"
"Yes, Father, I still love you. I want to try
to help you. Come with me."
Then the boy would gaze about and ask,
"Where is your hat?"
"Hat? I don't know. I have lost it." The
boy would see the torn and mud-stained clothing,
the poor old pitiful face, eyes bloodshot and swol-
len; and the skin that once had been rosy was
now a ghastly, ashen gray. He would choke
back his feelings, and grip his hands to keep
"Come, Father, take my hat, and let us go."
"No, my son. I don't need any hat. Noth-
ing can hurt me — I am lost! Lost!"
So they would go out, arm in arm; and while
they made their progress up the Highway, the
22 THE CUP OF FURY
man would pour out his remorse, and tell the
story of his weeks of horror.
Then, after a mile or so, he would halt.
"What is it, Father?"
"I must have something to drink."
"But, my boy, I can't go on! I can't walk!
You don't know what I'm suffering!"
"I've got the money left — I'm not asking
you, I'll come right with you — on my word of
honor I will!"
And so they would fight it out — all the way
back to the lodging-house where they lived, and
where the mother sat and wept. And here they
would put him to bed, and lock up his clothing
to keep him in; and here, with drugs and mineral-
waters, and perhaps a doctor to help, they would
struggle with him, and tend him until he was
on his feet again. Then, with clothing newly-
brushed and face newly-shaven, he would go
back to the world of men; and the boy would go
back to his dreams.
I cannot remember any time so far back that my fa-
ther was not a drinking man. He was in fact a drinking
man before my mother married him. Her family had op-
posed the match for that reason, but he made promises, and
she accepted them.
He was handsome, gay, and charming; Virginia-born,
he settled in Baltimore immediately after the Civil War. His
grandfather was Commodore Sinclair, who commanded the
THE CUP OF FURY 23
Congress, the first frigate built by the United States govern-
ment. The Commodore was the founder of the Annapolis
Naval Academy, and was one of the founders of the Demo-
The Commodore's son was Commander Arthur Sinclair
of the United States Navy, later of the Confederate Navy.
This Arthur — my grandfather — commanded one of the ves-
sels in the squadron of Commodore Perry when it opened
Japan to the outside world in 1853. In his boyhood he had
served as a midshipman alongside another lad, David Far-
ragut. They came from Norfolk and remained the closest of
friends until the Civil War broke out. They were captains
then, and when the conflict began, they shut themselves up
in Arthur's study and argued for a day and a night about
the aims and principles of each side. Neither was able to
convince the other: Farragut moved North and achieved
fame at the Battle of Mobile Bay, while Arthur took com-
mand of a Confederate blockade-runner carrying cotton to
England. Union warships were waiting for him outside the
port of Liverpool on his last trip; he tried to make his way
out on a stormy night, and the ship went ashore on the
rocks. Arthur was drowned. He was one of a large family
who served under the Confederate flag; indeed, I had eight
uncles and cousins who fought for the South.
Those of the family who survived the war were left
without property. My father retained his pride as a Southern
gentleman, but little else. He became a salesman for a whole-
sale liquor concern. Since it would have been bad business
to refuse to patronize his own wares, this was an unfortunate
occupation for him to choose.
We were always poor. We lived in one room in a
Baltimore lodging house, and I can remember sleeping across
the foot of the bed in which my parents slept. Then Father
24 THE CUP OF FURY
would be off on what was called a "spree." Our finances
would fall so low that we could not even pay the landlady,
and would be forced to go and stay in the home of my ma-
ternal grandfather, who was secretary-treasurer of the
Western Maryland Railroad. There was abundance here, and
even some elegance; and if you have read any of my novels,
you can see why they deal with the contrast between pov-
erty and riches in America.
Grandfather Harden lived in a four-story brick house
on Maryland Avenue, above what was then called "The
Boundary." A one-horse streetcar rolled by the door, and
every morning except Sunday he would board the same car
and ride to his office. He would return in the early afternoon
for a two o'clock dinner, riding downtown again after lunch
to finish his day's duties. He had a silver service which he
put into a wicker basket every night and carried up to his
bedroom for safety. And he gave terrapin suppers: I still
remember those large and lively turtles in the back gardens.
A Negro approached them warily and drove a steel fork
through their heads, then chopped the heads off. At these
parties no liquor was served, for Grandfather was a deacon
of the Methodist church, and in his library were bound
volumes of the Christian Herald, full of moral pictures which
provided me with entertainment even before I taught my-
self to read.
I can see him now in my mind's eye. Grandfather
Harden was a large, stoutish gentleman whose red-colored
hair grew from his chin instead of on the top of his head.
He was the kindest man you can imagine, and most upright;
but don't imagine that he could get away from John Barley-
corn! No, for he had a son, and his own deep religious
principles had failed to affect that son. Maybe it was an
over-indulgent mother, or perhaps the temptations of Bal-
THE CUP OF FURY 25
timore's fashionable society, or possibly the example of his
classmates in school — I never knew, because my Uncle Har-
ry was a "drinking man" before I was born, and he never
spoke frankly with me about his life.
One of my earliest and most vivid memories: I could
not have been more than three or four years old. I was
sleeping in a front bedroom on the top floor, and in the
middle of the night was awakened by loud voices. I got
out of bed in the canton-flannel nightgown which I wore,
and toddled to the head of the stairs. The stairs went down
in a circle and the sounds came plainly up the stairwell. A
violent argument was going on at the front door. Uncle
Harry was drinking, and Grandfather was trying to keep
him from going out to do more drinking. Grandfather must
have been trying to hold him by force, but Uncle Harry
broke away and left — and what grief he left in his father's
soul you can imagine.
Uncle Harry would go off on his drinking sprees regu-
larly, and would lose one position after another. Finally he
got a job with a brother-in-law who had started a bonding
business in New York (I shall be telling you about this
Uncle Bland before long). There, too, Harry would be dis-
charged, then forgiven, then taken back again on the basis
of new promises; but these were vows and assurances which,
of course, he could never keep. He had been an athlete, a
magnificent specimen of a man, handsome, gay, with a
hearty laugh. Then at the age of forty, Uncle Harry bought
himself a pistol, sat on a bench in Central Park, and put a
bullet through his head.
Nor was he the last. Next was my Uncle Arthur Sin-
clair (the Third), my father's oldest brother. At the age
of twenty-four he had served as Fifth Lieutenant on the
Alabama, a Confederate commerce raider, during the Civil
l6 THE CUP OF FURY
War. His two children, a boy and a girl, were among my
playmates in the Baltimore days. Later in his life Arthur
wrote a book, Two Years on the Alabama, which is a valued
historical record. I never saw him under the influence of
liquor, but I heard the sad story of the family from my
mother, and I was told that he too died an inebriate in an
Next, my "Uncle Pow." His name was Powhatan Mon-
tague, and he boasted of being a descendant of Pocahontas.
He came from Richmond to Baltimore and married one of
my father's sisters. He had a kind, long-suffering wife, and
two daughters who were also among my playmates, first in
Baltimore and then in New York. When we were four or
five years old we were romping, Lelia and I, and I put a
pillow on Lelia's head and sat on it, having no idea of doing
any harm. When they pulled me off, her face was purple.
Fortunately, though, this event did not keep Lelia from
growing up to become a famous beauty. After her marriage,
she befriended a half -orphaned niece, launched her in Wash-
ington society, and then saw her go to England and become
the Duchess of Windsor. That is a story I shall tell later on.
Uncle Powhatan was another big, handsome fellow, with
a black moustache and a hearty laugh. He was full of mis-
chief. "Pow, you devil!" my mother would exclaim, and
he would be delighted. Pow was made for conviviality. He
liked to prepare things in a chafing-dish, and whenever it
was possible he would put what he called a "stick" in them.
You can see how I walked through life with drinkers
and drunkards at my side. My father lived until I was
thirty, and all that time I had him in my thoughts and
often on my hands. I did everything I could for him; I
took him to church, I took him to clergymen, I made an
effort to interest him in reading. I recall that I once brought
THE CUP OF FURY 2.J
him the novels of "Walter Scott, and they got along beauti-
fully together, having exactly the same notions of gentility.
Let me try to bring before your eyes more clearly and
vividly this kind and most pitiable Southern gentleman. My
father was about five- feet-six, I would judge, and well filled-
out. He wore a little pointed brown moustache, and his com-
plexion was rosy. He laughed easily and was of a sociable dis-
position; this, I fear, is what trapped him. He took great
care of his person, and was what they called a "swell dresser."
His feet were small, and he was proud of them, taking them
to be a sign of aristocracy. He would gaze down at a pair of
tight little shoes, and he had words to describe them — they
were "nobby," they were "natty," they were "neat."
He gave a great deal of attention to fashion, and also
to food. What was the size and flavor of Blue Point oysters
as compared with Lynnhaven Bays? Why was it impossible
to obtain properly-cooked food north of Baltimore? What
was the wearing quality of patent-leather shoes as compared
with calfskin? Was there any fusel-oil in aged-in-the-wood
whiskey? Would the straw hats of next season have high or
low brims? Where had the Vanderbilts obtained the fifty-
thousand-dollar slab of stone which formed the pavement
in front of their Fifth Avenue palace? Wherein lay the
superiority of Robert E. Lee over all other generals of his-
tory? These were the questions which occupied the mind of
my stout little father.
He was so considerate, so good, and so utterly pathetic.
In all the years I argued and pleaded with him, I cannot re-
call that I ever heard an angry answer from him. But
nothing could save him. He was a traveling salesman, a
"drummer," and every deal began with one drink and ended
with another and another. He would make all sorts of vows
and resolutions; he would "drink only beer," he would
"never drink until evening" — but always in the end he
28 THE CUP OF FURY
would disappear, and then I would have to go and find him.
The time came when we could no longer handle him at home,
and I had to take him to a Catholic hospital where the good
nuns had strong men at call.
It seems to me that my father could have been so happy,
and we so happy with him, if only there had been no alcohol
in the picture. Yet it was as if there were a doom upon him;
he could not resist it. I would discuss his problem with him,
and tears would come into his eyes and mine; he would
make promises, but he could not keep them. As I remember
it, he never went "off" while he was on his travels. When
he had to make train connections and register at hotels and
have his samples brought to a room and displayed for the
customers, he was simply too busy, too excited to drink.
No, it was when he returned to the city and had to meet
customers, entertain them, and drink with them that he
would go "off." Sometimes he would be gone for a week
or two before we found him. And when he came out of
the hospital his complexion would look like soft dough, and
his hands would be shaking so that he could take only a
half-cup of coffee at a time. And my mother would be oc-
cupied long hours in keeping him supplied with it. He would
try to shave himself — it was in the days before the safety
razor — and he would cut himself. It was one of the signs
by which I learned to know an alcoholic: the fresh nicks on
doughy cheeks and chin.
You understand that there was then no known cure
for alcoholism, no proved method of treatment. All one
could do with a victim was to keep him full of coffee, and
hide his clothes so that he could not escape. If the police got
him, they just locked him up and let him suffer it out. There
was a thing called "the Keeley cure," but my father was
afraid of it; he knew a man who had taken it and had suf-
THE CUP OF FURY 29
fered greatly. So things went from bad to worse, until I
reached the age of thirty. I happened to be in New York,
working, and there came a telephone call from a public
hospital; my father had died there in delirium tremens.
Life is a mystery, strange beyond all telling. My inebri-
ate father would have approved this book. When he was
beginning to drink he would say, "It is my only consolation."
But when he was getting over it, he would say liquor was a
curse. I can hear him moaning: "If only I had never
touched it!" I leave that as his epitaph.
When I was eight years old we moved to New York.
We lived in a place which was called a family hotel, but
which was really a large boarding house that had been made
by joining together four old brownstone residences on West
19th Street. It was kept by a Colonel Weisiger from Vir-
ginia, and was frequented entirely by Southern people. The
occupants were colonels, majors and captains from the Civil
War days, and their families, all of them more or less im-
poverished by that war. There was no bar and no public
drinking. It was a decorous place, even as every place in
their dearly-loved South had been decorous when ladies were
present. But of course the gentlemen brought liquor to their
Nearly a half-century later I described the Weisiger
boarding house in a novel, The Wet Parade. A Negro porter
named Taylor Tibbs worked in it, and every afternoon one
THE CUP OF FURY 3 1
of his duties was to go to the corner saloon and bring back
two pails of beer for Colonel Weisiger. One influence of the
beer was evident to my eye, for the old gentleman weighed
a bloated two hundred and fifty pounds. The Colonel and
his wife were generous people, and when we were in financial
distress they would patiently wait for their money.
In the Weisiger house I heard much talk about liquor,
which was always in the thoughts of these Southern gentle-
men when not in their stomachs. Nowadays the ladies are
drinking too, but in those days they were suffering only
from the effect it had on their households.
I remember one young man who was never more than
two-thirds sober. He was what the English call a "remit-
tance man" — his family in the South paid him to stay in
New York. And never shall I forget old Major Waterman,
who caused me one of the most embarrassing moments of
my young life.
One evening I was placed at a table with the Major and
two young ladies. The venerable warrior started telling of
an incident which had taken place that day. "I was walking
along the street and I met Jones. 'Come in and have a drink,'
said he, and I of course replied, e No, thank you' — "
What was to be the end of that story I shall never know.
"Oh, Major Waterman!" I burst out, obviously convinced
that the Major would never and indeed could never say "No"
to a drink. There followed an appalled silence. Terror
gripped my soul as the old gentleman turned his bleary eyes
upon me. "What do you mean, sir? Tell me what you
I was a brat, of course, and I deserved the lesson. The
old gentleman's cheeks were inflamed and his nose had purple
veins in it, but I could scarcely mention these as proof of his
never-ending imbibing. All I could do was sit silent like a
32 THE CUP OF FURY
hypnotized rabbit as he bellowed, "I wish to have an answer,
sir! What do you mean by that remark?"
I still have, as one of my weaknesses, the tendency to
speak first and think afterwards; but the memory of Major
Waterman has helped me on the way to reform. And I have
since learned that alcoholism is a disease, that its victims
need help, not ridicule.
In New York there was a saloon on every other corner.
The one on Sixth Avenue, near the Weisiger household, was
called "Sandkuhl's." The proprietor must have been a kind
man, for he loaned money to certain gentleman customers.
Some twenty years after my father's death, I received a let-
ter from a Baltimore life insurance company, telling me that
my father had owned a policy for two hundred dollars, and
had assigned it to a man named Sandkuhl. Could I help
them, they asked, in finding this man?
Thus even from the grave, my father continued his
payments to the liquor manufacturers and their army of
I lived in New York for two years before I was per-
mitted to attend school. I had taught myself to read at the
age of five, using alphabet blocks, and a doctor warned my
mother that this was "precocious," that I should be made to
"rest my mind." And so I was ten years old before I went
to a classroom for the first time. But after this delayed be-
ginning, I went through the whole primary and grammar
school process in two years. Still too young to go on to col-
lege, I was forced to repeat the last year of high school —
the major purpose, I assume, being to keep me out of mis-
It was at college that my life assumed direction and
aim; at college that I decided to "become a writer." And
since this book will essentially be the story of other writers
THE CUP OF FURY 33
with whom I have worked and lived, wonderful men and
women whose sadly-beclouded lives were linked at one time
or another with mine, I shall on occasion pause to tell you
about myself: how I came to know them, strive with them,
and live closely with them. I think you will be amused when
you see how the little acorn of envy and emulation which
led me into the literary life has since grown into an oak, with
so many branches (I sometimes think!) that it threatens to
The College of the City of New York was situated in
an old brick building on East Twenty-third Street; I entered
it a week before I was fourteen.
In my class in college was a Jewish boy by the name
of Simon Stern, whom I had come to know well because
we lived in the same neighborhood, and often walked home
together. Simon wrote a short story; and one day he entered
the class in triumph, announcing that his story had been
accepted by a monthly magazine published by a Hebrew
Straightway I was stirred to emulation. If Simon could
write a story, why could not I? And so I wrote a story
about a pet bird. For years it had been my custom every
summer to take young birds from the nest and raise them.
They would know me as their only parent, and were charm-
ing pets. Now I put one of these birds into an adventure,
making it serve to prove the innocence of a colored boy ac-
cused of arson. I mailed the story to Argosy, one of the two
Munsey publications issued in those early days, and the
story was accepted. Price — $25.00! You can imagine that
I was an insufferable youngster on the day the letter arrived;
especially so to my friend Simon Stern, who had not been
paid for his story.
Simon and I went into partnership and wrote an ad-
34 THE CUP OF FURY
venture novel — about which I cannot remember one
thing, not even the title. Together we visited the offices of
Street and Smith, publishers of "thrillers" for boys, and met
one of the editors, who was amused to have two fifteen-
year-old boys in short pants announce themselves as "joint
authors of a novel." He read it, and did not accept it; but
he did hold out hope to us, and suggested that we write
another thriller, one better suited to his needs. We agreed
to do so; and to the consternation of the editor, came back
in a week with the new novel complete.
I am not sure what became of that story. The partner-
ship dissolved, however, and during the ensuing summer I
set to work on my own on a full-length novel of adventure.
I am embarrassed now to realize how striking a resemblance
it bore to Treasure Island — the key difference being that my
book took place on land. It had to do with an effort by
some returning "forty-niners" to find hidden gold before
they were killed by Indians. The Prairie Pirates was the
title, and I don't know if the manuscript survives; but I re-
call reading it at some later date, and being impressed by my
idea of "sex-appeal" at the age of sixteen or seventeen. The
hero had accompanied the beautiful heroine all the way from
California, and rescued her many times from Indian ma-
rauders and treacherous half-breeds; finally he told her
blushingly that he loved her. And then, having obtained
permission, "he placed upon her forehead a holy kiss."
At about this time my father's condition had become
so bad that I found it necessary to earn money; and one way
in which I succeeded was by writing jokes. I read the joke
pages in the newspapers daily, just as I read everything I
could get hold of, and someone told me they paid a dollar
apiece for such jokes. I tried, and found this to be true.
THE CUP OF FURY 35
Joke-writing interested me. I had listened to my elders
telling jokes, and had laughed whether I understood them
or not. Now joke-writing took hold of me like an obsession.
I thought up jokes as I walked on the street, while I ate my
meals, after I went to bed at night, and when I opened my
eyes in the morning. When I passed an Irishman I thought
about Irish jokes; and the same with soldiers and tramps.
When I went to the country with my mother, I wrote
jokes about farmers. When I met a missionary I wrote jokes
about missionaries and cannibals. I didn't write Jewish jokes,
but only because Simon Stern monopolized that market!
I also wrote for my college magazine, without financial
profit, but for the sheer fun of it. I have before me the
bulky scrapbook into which my mother pasted these contri-
butions, and all the jokes I sold. The magazine was called
the Phrenocosmian, which means that it belonged to the
Mind Cosmos, and that may account for the piece of erudi-
tion which I am about to put before you.
MY BELOVED VALENTINE
Desiring to promulgate my erotic cogitations,
When Luna's coruscations lit the polyphloes-
I sought my classic cubicle for nascent lucubra-
To asseverate encomiastic sentiments for
But in my contumacious Pegasus of assinine fa-
My diatribe, so truculent, oscitancy did
And my calcarate titillations, cataclysms salta-
3 6 THE CUP OF FURY
Disappeared my youthful fervor in the dis-
So from multifarious synonyms, with onerous
My penchant I manifested for the sesquipe-
Circumstances circumambient deserve considera-
So animadvert gently on my verdant valen-
I kept a record, and my joke-writing brought in four
dollars and a half a week. Three went for food at a boarding
house, a dollar and a quarter for a fourth-story, back-hall
bedroom — and that left me twenty-five cents for laundry.
I never bought anything else, not even a newspaper for a
So you can believe that I had neither time nor money
for what is called "college life." I recall that a tall and im-
pressive classmate approached me on the subject of joining
a fraternity. I didn't know what one was, and when I
learned that it cost money, I didn't have any.
Nearly all the students I met came from poor families,
many of them foreigners and most of them Jewish. They
were bent on improving their position in the world, and
they worked hard. Years later, when my own son wanted
to go to college, I let him earn his own way.
Thus, my contacts with whiskey-drinkers during this
period were only through my father and my poor Uncle
Harry, who at this time lived in the same Harlem lodging
house as my mother and I. I had by now moved off into
worlds of which this uncle knew nothing, and he advised
me to "quit scribbling and get a job." But he did not follow
THE CUP OF FURY 37
my advice about his drinking, nor did I follow his about
About the time of my graduation from the City Col-
lege, at the age of eighteen, I received a letter from the Street
and Smith editor, asking me to visit his office. The firm
was planning a new "half-dime library," called the Army
and Navy Weekly, each issue containing two stories — one
of West Point life and the other of Annapolis life. They
would be read by messenger boys, newsboys — all boys, in
fact, who could be lured to part with live cents by a thrilling
color picture on the cover. The editor himself was going
to "do" Annapolis, and would I care to make a try for the
West Point job? This of course, was like hearing a brass
band coming down the street; and I wasn't merely going to
follow it, like all the other boys — I was going to be the
I accepted without hesitation. I had grown tired of
joke-writing, and here was something with more body to
it, and also more money — an increasingly important factor,
since my father was becoming less and less dependable as
a provider for the family.
Each of the new stories was to contain about eight
thousand words, and would be paid for at the sumptuous
and secure rate of one-third of a cent per word. Twenty-five
dollars a week!
I consulted a clergyman friend, Mr. Moir, and it hap-
pened that he knew an officer of the Military Academy; and
shortly I had a fine letter of introduction. I took a West
Shore train the next day, watched the sights of the Hudson
River, got off at the little town of Garrison, put up at a
small and cheap hotel, and then walked to the Academy.
I was kindly received by Mr. Moir's friend, who introduced
me to several of the cadets.
38 THE CUP OF FURY
They were marvels of grey-uniformed spickness and
spanness; and I think they found something intriguing
about a writer so very young, so small and seedy in contrast.
I remember one magnificent specimen of military manhood,
to whom I remarked that I would need a hero for my stories;
replied he, with the utmost gravity, "I could serve for your
hero. I am the head of the senior class, I am at the top in
scholarship, and I am captain of the football team." I told
him that I would be happy to use him as my model; unfor-
tunately I don't remember his name, and sometimes wonder
what became of him in World War I, and whether by chance
he was one of the high commanders of World War II.
In any event, I wandered over the length and breadth
of the Academy, fixing the local color in my mind. I ad-
mired the spacious grounds, set on a wide bluff where the
great river narrows and makes a curve. I studied the im-
pressive buildings which were scattered about, and learned
their names and style of architecture. I stood by the great
parade ground and watched the grey-clad figures of my
country's young fighting men in training for war, executing
complicated maneuvers, their legs moving with precision like
the levers in a long weaving machine. I admired the bright
foliage of the woods, walked on "Lovers' Lane," studied the
ancient and honorable artillery, and gazed at the long view
up the blue river. I collected the literature of the famous
institution, learned the conditions of admission for candi-
dates, and all the other rules and regulations. I asked a
thousand questions, went back to the hotel at night, and
filled a notebook with details. Then I returned to my hall
bedroom in New York, and started scribbling with a pencil
on cheap copy paper. With a flourish I wrote:
THE CUP OF FURY 39
MARK MALLORY'S HEROISM:
Or, First Steps Toward West Paint
Lt. Frederick Garrison, U.S.A.
This was the pen-name which had been assigned to me,
and I never stopped to wonder whether or not there
might be such a real person. I began: "CHAPTER ONE,
Two Candidates." And the opening words were: "Is this
The first scene took place in a railroad train in a depot
at Omaha. Seated together were two young men; and as
the train chugged out of the depot, they fell to chatting.
Both, it turned out, were on their way to seek admission to
West Point. One already had his appointment to the Acad-
emy; the other — Mark Mallory — soon realized with
shock and dismay that his new friend had received his ap-
pointment from Mark's own district*. And this meant that
Mark would have to wait several years for another chance
to enter the Point. (But wait, dear reader; don't despair.
Fate was kind to our hero.)
Chapter Two was titled What Happened to the Pacific
Express. And what happened was a terrible train wreck, in
which Mark's new friend was so badly hurt that he could
not continue his trip to West Point. Mark, however, es-
caped; and so was present when an old farmer rode up to
the scene of the wreck. The farmer and the Governor of
the State — who was on the train — began this conversation:
"Can't you get help?" demanded the Gov-
"Ain't nobody here t'help."
"Where's the nearest town?"
40 THE CUP OF FURY
"Grangers, thirty miles from here."
"There's a telegraph station ten miles from
here — " the old man added.
"But the operator ain't there. He goes over
at night to Grangers."
"That settles it!" cried the Governor. "That
settles it! Oh, if only we had a telegraph opera-
tor! He could save a dozen lives. But it's — "
"Give me the horse!"
The Governor stopped abruptly and faced
about. The speaker was a tall young man coming
over from the train. His face was pale now; but
there was resolution in his eyes.
"You want a telegraph operator," he said.
"Give me the horse."
That, of course, was Mark Mallory; and he not only rode
the wild and dangerous horse called "Tiger," but he got to
the station and sent a message which brought help to the
injured. Then he rushed a full and exclusive account of the
accident involving the Governor's train to the New York
Globe and received a check for five hundred dollars in pay-
ment. Thus he could not only win the appointment to the
U.S. Military Academy, but could also provide for his aged
and impoverished mother.
The Mark Mallory stories were successful indeed from
the point of view of the publishers. The editor told me that
the great Mr. Smith of Street and Smith had asked him, "Has
that young fellow been through West Point?" and the reply
was, "Yes, he went through it in three days."
The stories were successful from my point of view, too,
THE CUP OF FURY 41
because they made me a living, and enabled me to take care
of my own impoverished (but not aged) mother. They are
successful from the point of view of the book collector, be-
cause they sold for five cents a copy fifty-eight years ago,
and now bring five dollars a copy. The only harm they may
have done is set forth by my friend Van Wyck Brooks in
his excellent book, The Confident Years, He writes:
"Upton Sinclair . . . supported himself by turning out
pulp-novels, the 'half-dime' romances that Dreiser was em-
ployed to edit a few years later, and this perhaps gave him
the fatal facility and established the commonplace style that
he scarcely ever transcended as a serious writer."
As time went on, the battleship Maine was sunk in the
harbor of Havana, and our country went to war with Spain.
My West Point hero was graduated from the Military Acad-
emy at once; and there was I, in my hall bedroom in New
York, outwitting spies and engaging vicariously in all kinds
of hair-raising experiences. When people asked me what my
job was I would answer, "Killing Spaniards." I thought
nothing of sinking a whole fleet of enemy torpedo boats to
achieve a climax.
Before long my editor found himself too busy to con-
tinue his own stint; he invited me to take over the Annapolis
job also. I made the trip to Maryland, "went through
Annapolis in three days," and came back and wrote twice
as hard. After a year or more, I took on still another task
for the firm; I wrote a monthly paper-book called the Colum-
bia Library. By then I was turning out eight thousand words
a day. Professional hacks may find this hard to believe, but
it is so. I no longer wrote by hand; I employed two stenog-
raphers and kept them busy on alternate days, or rather
nights, from seven o'clock until nine or ten. By the time I
42 THE CUP OF FURY
finished these three or four years of servitude, I had pro-
duced a volume of material equal in bulk to the writings of
Sir Walter Scott.
Now I set out to write a serious novel; there was a lot
of talk in those days about the "Great American Novel,"
and I undertook to provide it. When the publishers were
unappreciative, I borrowed two hundred dollars from my
Uncle Bland and published the book myself.
It didn't sell. But it made the first friendships I describe
in this book; and thus I begin the stories of Jack London and
George Sterling, O. Henry and Stephen Crane. I begin the
story, essentially, of a group of brilliant and brave Americans
who lived to write and died for wine.
A volume of short stories about the Klondike, written
by a young writer named Jack London, had just been pub-
lished. I read it and wrote to the author, sending him a copy
of my own just -published book; thus there began a friend-
ship by mail. We were two young social dreamers, eager to
remake the world. We both read the Appeal to Reason, a
weekly paper of political protest published in Girard, Kansas,
by the redoubtable "one-hoss editor," J. A. Wayland. We
were both certain that the Co-operative Commonwealth, a
world without poverty, was coming soon. Thereafter when
one of us wrote a new book, his first thought was to send it
to the other; and always the other liked what he read.
And then there came a book from Jack with an inscrip-
tion beginning, "I have a friend, the dearest in this world."
The book was The Testimony of the Suns by George Sterling.
I read it and found it magnificent poetry on the highest of
44 THE CUP OF FURY
themes. George loved Aldebaran and Betelgeuse as Milton
loved Ormuz and Ind, the Stygian cave forlorn and the dark
Cimmerian desert. Of course I wrote to George immediately,
and another friendship began. I did not know that he too
was a drinking man, and seven or eight years passed before I
found it out. Some of the critics may have known it sooner,
however; when he published The Wine of Wizardry, one said
that it ought to have been called "The Wizardry of Wine."
As you read this book of mine you will find one after
another of the great poets and novelists of America described,
men and women whose talents should have been conserved for
the benefit of all humanity. You will find them set down
here as pitiful victims of alcohol; you will read my evidence
that alcohol is perhaps our most persistent purveyor of agony
and premature death. Critics of this approach to the problem
of alcoholism may reply to me with the story of Abraham
Lincoln and General Grant; people complained of Grant's
drinking too much whiskey, and Lincoln replied: "Find out
the name of the brand for me so that I can give it to my
This makes a witty story, but you will be mistaken if
you draw the conclusion that one can create genius with
whiskey. I once asked George Sterling about this; he would
know, I felt, if any man in the world could know. He an-
swered, "If you write when you have been drinking, you
think you have written the most wonderful thing in the
world; but when you read it in the morning, you discover
that it makes no sense." Great men are great not because of
alcohol, but in spite of it.
My young colleagues were certainly great, and their work
inspired me. I could no longer write "half-dime novels,"
because I had come to despise them; and when I did try, in
order to eat, the editors told me that my tales were no longer
THE CUP OF FURY 45
any good. I picked up a few dollars here and there writing
sketches, book reviews, and miscellaneous articles for maga-
zines. I wrote a satirical novel called Prince Hagen. It was
rejected by seventeen magazines and twenty-two publishing
houses (which in itself took a year or two), but at last I
found a publisher in Boston. The book earned two hundred
dollars — less than the copying costs and the postage and
Out of this misery I wrote the diary of a young poet
who was driven to suicide by despair. It was called The
Journal of Arthur Stirling, and it made something of a sen-
sation. Unfortunately in my ignorance I had signed a con-
tract by which I would receive no royalties whatsoever until
the book earned the cost of publication. I never got a dollar
from it, and again was out the cost of having the manuscript
typed. But I was learning to know the literary world.
I met the editors of the more intellectual magazines of
that time — Independent, Literary Digest, McClures. They
took an interest in me, gave me advice, and now and then —
since I was pale and hungry-looking — invited me to lunch.
The more worldly ones invited me to join them in a drink,
and when I declined they were perhaps a little put out. They
offered me cigarettes, and I did not smoke. I watched them
quench their cigarettes in their coffee cups and take out their
pencils and do, what is called "doodling" on the white table-
cloth. Their advice was that I should read their magazines,
see what kind of material they published, and learn to write
it. They published society love stories, adventure stories,
stories which were exciting but never shocking, and which
above all contained no social criticism.
One of the writers I was advised to imitate was O.
Henry. His stories were gay, pathetic, human, and always
had a trick ending, a snap-of-the-whip conclusion. I met an
4^ THE CUP OF FURY
editor of McClure's who was helping to keep him alive. O.
Henry had to be watched and guarded and made to write.
He would promise a story by a certain date, and the editor
would save the space for him; but the story did not come,
and the editor would then be forced to send an assistant to
watch over the writer, help him sober up, and make him sit
down and work. He could not write anything bad, it seemed,
but it was an agony for him to write at all.
Here was one more Southern gentleman in trouble with
alcohol. His real name was William Sydney Porter, and I
recall his tragic story with compassion. He was a bank clerk;
one day some money was missing, and he was accused of em-
bezzlement. Maybe he was guilty, or perhaps he was "taking
the rap" for somebody else — he would never discuss the sub-
ject. He fled to Honduras; and Al Jennings, the famous train
bandit who later reformed and wrote an autobiography, tells
of meeting him there, half drunk and in jail. In the end, they
both went home and served their sentences in the same prison.
Many years later I put them both into a play, Bill Porter,
which was produced in Hollywood.
O. Henry was dreadfully ashamed of this cloud of sus-
picion; also, he grieved for his wife, who had died of tuber-
culosis. He was proud, tormented, and frightened. Before
long, death delivered him from his misery — at the age of
Another young writer I was advised to study was Stephen
Crane, who had caused a tremendous sensation with a short
novel titled The Red Badge of Courage, He followed it up
with a novel about a girl of the streets, and he wrote eccentric
poetry. And he too was a "drinking man."
Crane was obsessed by wars; I suppose that having
imagined one with extraordinary vividness, he wanted to see
if he had been right. He tried to get to Cuba in an old tub
THE CUP OF FURY 47
of a steamer which sank, and he barely escaped with his life;
out of that came a story, The Open Boat. Later, when he
reached Cuba, he horrified everybody by stepping out of the
trenches and making himself a target for the shooting. He
didn't care very much about living; he used to say that thirty-
five years were enough for any man. He made only twenty-
Crane fell ill in Cuba and took to drinking heavily as a
"cure." He drank steadily. He was a very small man, only
a hundred and twenty pounds. He was tubercular, and appar-
ently the disease affected his intestines as well as his lungs. He
was always hard up for money, and had a terrible time with
editors and publishers. When he had a low character in one
of his stories use the expression "b'Gawd" there was quite a
controversy, and the expression came into print as "b' ."
Crane was also interested in prostitutes, and he wrote a great
deal about them in his books. The truth is the young novelist
was a man of tender heart and of genuine social feeling; com-
pared with another Crane whom we shall hear about in this
book — Hart Crane — he appears as something of a saint.
[t was impossible to live in the great metropolis and
keep away from the sights and the smells and the miseries of
alcohol. There were drinking places everywhere; there were
dives for the poor, and elegant saloons in the hotels. There
was the Knickerbocker at Broadway and Forty-second Street,
and somebody invited me into the barroom; there I saw their
famous painted lady hanging over the bar. Iwas introduced
to a Western celebrity drinking at the Knickerbocker — a
sheriff and friend of Teddy Roosevelt, Bat Masterson by name.
He asked me what I would have, and I said lemonade; and of
course that was queer. Nobody likes to be queer, and least
of all a sensitive young writer who hasn't the price of a
48 THE CUP OF FURY
What was talked about, though, was the same whether
you were in the "Tenderloin" or the literary world. In those
days everybody was reading Mr. Dooley, the story of a fic-
titious saloon-keeper on Archey Road in Chicago. A bit of
a radical, Dooley made pungent remarks about how the Su-
preme Court followed the "illiction returns." Mr. Dooley
was syndicated in the newspapers and afterwards published
in book form; I remember how keenly my father and uncles
read and appreciated him.
Finley Peter Dunne was the author, and I met him that
day at the Knickerbocker. A rosy-faced genial Irishman
whose conversation was as brilliant as his writing, he made a
delightful companion. About that time Lincoln Steffens had
published an interview with William Randolph Hearst, elab-
orately portraying the publisher as a man of mystery. I
remember how Dunne chuckled as he explained Stef's mis-
take: Hearst, Dunne insisted, was scared stiff by the inquisi-
tion, and didn't know what to say. So he just looked at Stef
and said nothing. This, apparently, made him "a man of
Dunne became one of the founders and editors of the
American Magazine; but alas, he would disappear for long
periods, and there was no mystery about why he did this.
Nor was it a mystery that his famous character was a saloon-
keeper, for Dunne was a saloonkeeper's victim. He retired
from the literary world long before his potential was half-
In the movement of social reform, too, I came to know
men of good heart who were enchained by the liquor habit.
I remember attending a great mass meeting in New York, and
there for the first time I met Eugene V. Debs. He had been
a railroad worker and then a union leader, and had been
jailed in Chicago for calling a strike. Gene was a lanky, pale
THE CUP OF FURY 49
man, a fiery orator, and one of the gentlest souls I ever knew.
And so desperately a captive of alcohol! He had acquired the
habit in his early days, and fought against it all his life. The
greater a man's goals are, and the more capable his mind,
the more tragic is his story when he drinks.
When Gene went on lecture tours he was accompanied
by a strong man whose major duty it was to keep him fit to
go on the platform. One of these men, George H. Goebel,
is still living. He writes me:
In my opinion Eugene Debs had an unusually
high type of brain — so nicely adjusted that a table-
spoonful of whiskey would give all the effects of
a bottle. In my judgment he only got really drunk
when alone, after a long strain. Twice I know,
when his tour of dates had been filled, he disap-
peared for weeks — presumably on a batter. All
over the country the reporters seemed to have an
unwritten rule to say nothing of the habit, out of
admiration for him.
Yes, I traveled with Gene much of the time —
had full charge of arranging the meetings after
his release from Atlanta. On these tours our main
difficulty was not Gene, but friends wishing to
show their regard for him, trying to sneak in a
bottle, although they knew we did not wish it —
over and over we would confiscate it. When I say
"we" I mean Otto Branstetter and Bertha Hale
White. We usually had three rooms in a row, Gene
in the last one — so that, with our doors open, we
knew who was going by, and intercepted them.
Drink hindered and haunted them, these men like Debs;
but their ideas, in those days of intellectual ferment, were a
heady brew for me. I revelled in the opportunity to work
JO THE CUP OF FURY
and fight for the goals which were then deemed impossible
and ultra-radical, and yet are now accepted as almost com-
monplace by the nation. Late in the summer of 1905 I sent
out to everybody I knew a circular proposing an organization
to teach college students the program and purposes of the
Socialist movement. A dinner meeting was arranged at a
restaurant on Fulton Street in New York City; some three-
score men and women attended, and we organized what is
now called the League for Industrial Democracy. It is still
I proposed Jack London as its president . . . and thus
came to know the horror of his alcoholism.
London was delighted by the offer of the presidency of
our new group; he notified us that he was planning to sail
around Cape Horn, and would speak for us on his arrival in
A mass meeting was called. Jack was at the height of
his fame, and a great crowd assembled to hear him. He had
landed in Florida and was coming by train, but the train
was late; here was this vast crowd and no Jack London. I was
asked by our group to take his place, and was panic-stricken;
but I summoned my thoughts and was about to emerge on
the platform when I heard a tremendous cheering, and real-
ized that London had at last arrived. Here he came, striding
up the aisle, a stocky, vigorous man just under thirty, blond-
haired, the perfect Nordic type he later celebrated. He was
greeted as a conquering hero, and delivered a famous speech —
afterwards published in the book, Revolution (issued a dozen
years before the Russians made that word odious). The
newspapers gave his speech much space, and afterwards he
went up to Yale and delivered it there.
The day after the New York meeting I sat at a luncheon
THE CUP OF FURY 5 1
in Mouquin's restaurant with Jack and his wife, Charmian,
and the editor of Wilshire's magazine and his wife. It was a
great occasion for me, but not unmixed with sorrow — for
Jack was drinking. His eyelids were inflamed, and there were
in his face and speech all the signs of alcoholism I had learned
to recognize. He ordered drinks throughout the meal and
during the hours of talk which followed.
He chose to take my non-drinking as a challenge. Not
in an angry way — and yet, as I look back with my present
knowledge of psychology, I know there must have been
powerful conflicts in his subconscious. He chose to tease me
by reciting his prodigious exploits as a drinking man. It had
all begun, he said, when he was five years old and had drunk
some of a pailful of beer which he was carrying to his step-
father, at work in the fields. At five, Jack London had drunk
himself into insensibility!
Picture him sitting in the restaurant — blue eyes, golden
hair, regular features, florid complexion, eager voice and
sparkling humor, telling what he had seen and done. At
the age of ten he was tramping the streets of Oakland, throw-
ing newspapers at doorways. There was nothing especially
thrilling about this, he said; but when he went into saloons,
there he found excitement of all sorts. Men were noisy, they
laughed loudly, everything was big and splendid, and some-
times there were fights. Even the drunks slumped over the
tables or lying on the sawdust-covered floor seemed adven-
turous and glamorous. Saloons were the place where men
made acquaintanceships, where they struck bargains and
sealed them with a quick toss of a shot-glass.
Then, when he was fourteen, Jack was employed on a
boat in the harbor. In the cabin he entered a drinking bout
with two men. He took "drink for drink" with them, and
52 THE CUP OF FURY
the result was that the two men went under the table, while
Jack, still a boy, was able to go up on deck and walk about.
This made him most proud of himself; but looking back on
it he decided that the more fortunate man was the one who
could take only two drinks and not lose his self-control.
The man who could go on drinking indefinitely was tempted
to do it, and the results were far more serious in the end.
He next bought an oyster boat, and the deal was put
through in Johnny Heinhold's saloon, called "The Last
Chance." The money was paid, the receipt signed, and then
it was up to the seller to treat to a round of drinks. Every-
body in the place was invited. Everybody ordered whiskey.
It was bad whiskey, but Jack "tossed it down."
Now, seated at this table in a New York restaurant,
Jack London told us about the old town of Benicia, on the
Carquinez Straits, the town he made the headquarters of his
oyster boat. Jack had a job with the fish patrol; and both
during and after hours he held his own with the most reck-
less of the drinkers — it was "a matter of prestige." One time
when he was drunk he crawled under the nets in the drying
frames, and in the morning had to be disentangled from
them. It was a great joke, and he shared in it. For a period
of three weeks he "never drew a sober breath," and that was
the apex of glory.
He drank now at every opportunity. He made the
saloons his home; he began to lose interest in food. He woke
up in the morning with his fingers afflicted with palsy and his
stomach feeling the same way. He had to have a whole glass
of whiskey to brace him up. He tells us about a political
parade in Oakland; the political bosses hired all the bums and
waterfront gangsters to march, carrying torches. They got
THE CUP OF FURY 53
free liquor for it; then later they raided the bars and saloons,
seized a new supply of bottles and drank until stupefied.
Next Jack London shipped out as a seal hunter. There
were crazy scenes in the Bonin Islands when the crews went
ashore. In a Japanese house of entertainment he sat talking
and drinking with a pal. Another dropped in, then another,
and each treated in turn. They hired a Japanese orchestra,
and just as the samisens and the taikos started their strange
melodies, there came a wild scream from the street; they
recognized the voice of one of their shipmates, a sailor who
Was known to go berserk when drunk. This man didn't stop
for a doorway — he simply burst through the paper walls of
the building. His eyes were blood-shot and he was wildly
waving his arms. Says Jack, describing the event: "The
orchestra fled; so did we. We went through doorways, and we
went through paper walls — anything to get away."
Then the wanderer came back — "Home is the sailor!" —
and this is what Jack London found in his old Oakland
haunts. One friend had been shot while drunk and resisting
arrest, and another who had helped him was in prison. Four
others were dead, another had been drowned, another was
hiding up the river from the police; some were in San Quentin
or Folsom, state prisons. The "King of the Greeks," who had
been Jack's pal in Benicia, had fled abroad after killing two
men. Another man had been stabbed through the lung.
Jack decided that he was through with the sea and the
waterfront. He got a job in a steam laundry and there began
"industrial drinking," the disease I later portrayed as it took
place in the stockyards in Chicago. When Saturday night
came, he was utterly exhausted and wanted to get drunk. "I,
the long-time intimate of John Barleycorn, knew just what
54 THE CUP OF FURY
he promised me — maggots of fancy, dreams of power, forget-
fulness, anything and everything save whirling washers,
revolving mangles, humming centrifugal wringers, and fancy
starch, and interminable processions of Dutch trousers moving
in steam under my flying iron."
Such were the stories Jack told me at our restaurant
table, and you can understand why I was saddened. He went
away to keep his engagements, and I saw him no more on
There is another reason why I remember that after-
noon with Jack London so vividly. At that time I was
writing the last pages of a book called The Jungle — a novel
which would soon be translated into twenty-seven languages,
would eventually be read by tens of millions of people all
over the world, and would change the laws and ways of
America in sweeping and startling fashion.
It was this book which gave me the strange and endur-
ing title, "King of the Muckrakers" — a phrase used as recently
as a few months ago when Edward R. Murrow introduced
me on his "This I Believe" radio program. It is a phrase
which emboldens me now to challenge the octopus industries
producing alcoholic beverages.
The Jungle brought me together with many men and
women whom I eventually came to know intimately, and
about whom I will speak as we go on. "Not since Byron,"
$6 THE CUP OF FURY
said one newspaper, "has there been such an example of
worldwide celebrity won in a day by a book as has come to
And so I will tell you the story of The Jungle, and how
I came to write it.
Ever since I had stopped writing juvenile thrillers, I had
been attempting to write "the great American novel." Two
books failed; then I conceived of a third — a trilogy, in fact —
dealing with our American Civil War. "That the men of this
land may know the heritage which has come down to them"
— so read the inscription. George D. Herron promised me
thirty dollars a month so that I might write this book, and
I betook myself and my family to Princeton, New Jersey,
where the university library had a great Civil War collection.
On a ridge three miles north of town I put up two tents.
We spent the summer in the tents, and in the fall I
assisted in the building of a three-room cottage and a shack,
size eight by ten, in which I did my writing. I lived in that
neighborhood for four years, and met the people and listened
to their talk and their gossip. It was, I decided, an enfeebled
community; the vigorous elements had been moving west-
ward through a couple of centuries. It was significant to my
anti-poverty thinking that those who possessed hundred-acre
farms were usually respectable and hardworking people, while
the hard-put owners of five- and ten-acre farms fell prey to
tuberculosis and other diseases, and frequently went off to the
city to get drunk and "forget." Others stayed where they
were and made apple-jack and kept themselves half -stupefied.
One such family lived down the slope below us. They
had no land at all, but squatted in a ramshackle cabin. They
had eight or ten half -clad children; and they drank all the
hard liquor they could get. They lived, I was told, by trading
horses and cows, but it was generally believed that most of
THE CUP OF FURY 57
these were stolen from distant places. My ducks and geese
often wandered down that way to the brook, and when the
flock came back at night there would be yet another one
But neither such petty annoyances nor the building of
shacks stayed my pen. I wrote like one possessed. And after
a year there was the novel Manassas, It was accepted by the
Macmillan Company, and Jack London called it "the best
Civil War book I've read." It received good reviews, but it
did not sell. Thus the total of my earnings from my first
four novels was less than a thousand dollars.
However, the editor of Appeal to Reason read Manassas,
and suggested that I do a similar novel dealing with present-
day conditions. He offered me five hundred dollars in advance
for the serial rights, and to me this was a fortune. I chose
the Chicago stockyards as my subject. A great strike had
just taken place in the meat industry; the unions had been
crushed, and I had read a pamphlet describing the evil work-
ing conditions which existed there. So I went off to Chicago,
engaging a room in the Stockyards Hotel. I spent seven weeks
wandering about the Yards. My clothing was such that I
could be taken for a workingman, and I found that I could
In "Back-of-the-Yards," I saw much of John Barley-
corn. And I found the "System" described by Lincoln Stef-
fens in full operation: the packers, the police and the saloon-
keepers were allies. Their aim was to wring the last ounce
of labor-power out of the workers, and then pick the last
penny of slim wages out of their pockets. Wandering about
on a Sunday afternoon, I saw a wedding procession entering
the back room of a saloon. I went in with it and watched
the proceedings. I took a seat on a bench against the wall,
and sat there until late in the evening. Nobody asked me any
58 THE CUP OF FURY
questions or objected to my presence; perhaps they thought
I was a police detective. In any event, they surely could not
have guessed that I was composing in my mind the opening
chapter of a novel which would change their lives and their
work and their world.
They were my characters, and this wedding scene was
the beginning of my story. I wrote it there in my mind; I
went over every paragraph until I knew it by heart; a few
weeks later when I settled down in my eight-by-ten cabin,
on Christmas Day of 1904, I still knew every word of that
scene, and I wrote it half- blinded by my own tears.
The stockyards workers were impoverished, bewildered
foreigners, imported wholesale like cattle. They could not
speak English. They neither knew nor could defend their
rights. If they had a wedding party, they had to have it in
the back room of a saloon; no other place was available to
them. They certainly couldn't have it in the ramshackle
houses in which they lived, for often a whole family lived
crowded into one room, while the other rooms were rented
out to boarders in double shifts — one family sleeping at night,
the other by day.
In my view of it, the urge to drink is caused in part by
ignorance and in part by bad social conditions — and by this
latter phrase I mean both overwork and misery of the poor,
and idleness and luxury of the rich. Now, a half century
later, there are still both kinds of unfortunates in America,
but the stockyards workers have strong unions and earn high
pay. They are free American citizens.
The Jungle was a book of protest, written at a time when
the meat-packing industry knew no laws and no limitations.
It was the story of Polish and Lithuanian immigrants, herded
to America to work in the slaughterhouses and stockyards of
Chicago. Jurgis Rudkus, a young immigrant who came to
THE CUP OF FURY 59
America with his parents and the girl he loved, was my hero;
he was a strong, eager Lithuanian hoping to find wealth and
happiness as an American workingman.
Instead — Jurgis was trapped in "the jungle," a pit of
incredible corruption, poison and filth. Uncontrolled packers,
greedy for any penny of profit, willfully sold carcasses which
had been condemned by inspectors. Refuse-ridden food was
approved and packed. These were the facts of the stockyards
in those days; and protest by the men who worked in the
slaughterhouses was economic suicide.
The Jungle was a grim book; before my story ended,
Jurgis Rudkus was a broken man, ruined by the stockyards
system; his children were dead; his wife was forced into
prostitution, and was released only by death. How far away
these things may seem to you now — and how true they were
then! The book was an indictment of the economic, social,
and hygienic evils of the meat-packing industry; not by any
means an easy book to read, nor a pleasant one.
When the manuscript was finished, I went to New York
to interview George P. Brett, president of the Macmillan
Company, who said that the opening chapter was "a master-
piece." But he wanted me to cut out some of the "blood and
guts" from the book; nothing so horrible had ever been pub-
lished in America, he said. "Not, at least, by a respectable
concern." Out of his vast publishing experience he now
assured me that he could sell three times as many copies of
my book if I would only consent to remove the objectionable
passages. If I were unwilling to do this, his firm would be
compelled to decline the book. I could not take his advice;
I was determined to put the facts before the public.
I forget who the other publishers were who rejected The
Jungle. There were five in all; and by the time the last said
"No," I decided to publish it myself. The editor of Appeal
60 THE CUP OF FURY
to Reason generously consented to give space to a statement
of my troubles. Jack London wrote a rousing manifesto,
calling on the working people to rally to the book, which he
called "the 'Uncle Tom's Cabin* of wage-slavery." His com-
ments on the manuscript added, "It is alive and warm. It is
brutal with life. It is written of sweat and blood, and groans
and tears." In my statement I offered a "Sustainer's Edition,"
price $1.20 postpaid, and in a month or two I took in $4,000
— more money than I had been able to earn in all the past
In this case, the first thing I did was to buy a saddle-
horse for $125. The horse could also be driven to the buggy
— I had to have some form of exercise, to help the poor
stomach that apparently was not equal to keeping up with
the head. Also I had to have some way to get into town
quickly, because now I had a business on my hands, and had
to be sending telegrams and mailing proofs. I put a printing
firm in New York at work setting The Jungle in type. Then,
just as the work was completed, some one suggested that I
offer the book to Doubleday, Page and Company. They
accepted the novel subject to proof by an "independent re-
port" that my scorching condemnation of the industry
The "independent report" was soon ready; prepared by
a newspaperman who later turned out to be a publicity man
for the meat-packing industry, it declared that my book was
completely inaccurate and untruthful. Doubleday checked
further, learned of this frame-up, and moved ahead boldly
with their publishing plans.
Then a series of articles appeared in the Saturday Evening
Post, insisting that the packers were noble in all their motives,
and that their products were free from every blemish. I read
this pap, and was boiling mad; I took the first train to New
THE CUP OF FURY 6 1
York, and sped to Everybody's magazine, which had just
electrified the country with an exposure of Wall Street stock-
juggling and stock-watering. And before their entire staff of
editors, I read an 8,000-word reply to the Saturday Evening
It was dynamite, no mistake. In my possession I had
affidavits from a wild, one-eyed Irishman who had been a
foreman at the stockyards. He told under oath how con-
demned carcasses, thrown into the tanks to be destroyed,
were surreptitiously taken out at the bottom of the tanks
and sold to the city for meat! A second affidavit told how
he had been offered and had accepted a $5,000.00 bribe to
retract his story. The editors listened, and bought my article
on the spot.
We all expected the story to blow off the roof. And it
might have, except for the fact that the magazine came out
the day after earthquake and fire destroyed the city of San
Francisco. So no news stories went out on the condemned-
But The Jungle did make the first page soon after,
thanks to the efforts of the greatest publicity man of that
time, President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt called me to
Washington to discuss the meat-packers. "I bear no love for
these gentlemen," he told me, "for I saw the meat they
canned for the army in Cuba, and Yd as soon have eaten my
Roosevelt appointed a commission to investigate the
stockyards; their report, published under pressure from the
New York Times, proved practically every word in my book.
The nation went wild with fury; the book became a best-
seller; and I gave interviews and wrote statements for the
press until I was dizzy.
I had at last written "the great American novel!" The
62 THE CUP OF FURY
Jungle was a bestseller in America and in Great Britain.
Photographers and reporters journeyed to Princeton, hired
vehicles there and drove out to my farm; neighbors who had
been selling rusty machinery and broken-down mules to me
suddenly discovered that I had "put them on the map."
Editors wrote or telegraphed commissions, and I was free to
name my own price. The book was translated into one lan-
guage after another, and my fame was worldwide.
How did it feel to be famous? I can truly say that I
experienced few thrills. I wanted to take the first train to
the wilderness and never come back to crowds and excite-
ment. But "fame" did mean that newspapers and magazines
would print a little bit of what I wanted to say, and that
by this means hard-working men in the giant industries of
America, unorganized in those days, would hear words of
encouragement. And it did mean that American people, in-
cluding our soldiers, would never again have to eat spoiled
or diseased meat. Pure food laws with teeth in them were
forced through Congress.
Nevertheless, I became impatient for new activities.
Princeton did not seem a satisfactory place in which to
live. The roads were bad, my farm remote, and I had little
affection for most of my neighbors. I had been reading and
thinking about a co-operative home, and I invited others to
join in the experiment.
I invested the money from The Jungle in a building,
formerly a private school, on the Palisades; it was directly
across the Hudson River from upper Manhattan. Including
members and employees, we had some forty or fifty persons
in our "co-op." Fourteen of them were children, and we
achieved great success in our experiment in co-operative care
by the mothers.
Here in Helicon Home Colony we had privacy in our
THE CUP OF FURY 6}
separate rooms, to which no one came except by invitation;
and in addition, there were also common rooms. The main
one had a big, four-sided fireplace about which we gathered
for conversation, and such eminent persons as John Dewey
and William James came here to discuss their ideas with us.
One person in our midst was destined to become eminent,
although we did not know it. We kept him busy tending our
furnace, sweeping our public rooms and staircases, and clean-
ing the little fishpond in our glass-roofed court.
His name was Harry Sinclair Lewis.
"We called him Hal. He was tall and lanky, a twenty-
year-old eaglet who was fledging his feathers; he had vivid
red hair, and an abnormally florid complexion. You know
him as Sinclair Lewis — author of Main Street, Babbitt, Arrow-
smith, Dodsworth, and a dozen other novels.
Hal was eager, talkative, and a good listener. And at
Helicon Hall, there were many people worth listening to:
a philosopher from Columbia University, William P. Mon-
tague; a professor of manual arts from Teachers College; a
Swedish writer, Edwin Bjorkman, who was translating
Strindberg; a couple of minor novelists; a physician; and
others who could tell much about life and letters.
Hal had quit Yale in order to learn about co-operative
living. With him came a friend, Allen Updegraff, who also
aspired to write. I had a secretary, Edith Summers; and these
three — Hal, "Up," and Edie — formed our junior literary sec«
THE CUP OF FURY 6$
tion. They liked to sit apart and talk about the books they
read; and they spoke with zest of the books they hoped some-
day to write.
Edith eventually married a workingman named Kelley,
and tried raising tobacco in Kentucky; what she got out of
it was starvation, and a powerful, realistic but little-read
novel called Weeds, Later she became blind.
"Up" went to live in France, and there wrote novels,
one of them giving an appalling picture of the drunkenness
of American expatriates on the Riviera.
As to Hal, I have more to relate. He soon had enough
of furnace-work and general education, and went off to New
York. There, incidentally, he wrote a playful article about
our Helicon "home- colony" life for the New York Sun. It
has been reprinted in the collection of Hal's miscellaneous
writings called The Man From Main Street: A Sinclair Lewis
Reader, and you may enjoy reading it. It was a harmless
enough piece, but it worried Professor Montague because he
was teaching in a woman's college then headed by a strict
lady dean; and she was not the sort to enjoy reading about
her professor dancing with our pretty Irish waitress on Satur-
day evenings. Particularly since Hal neglected to mention
that Montague's wife, a medical student, was always present
at such times! Rereading the article recently, I wondered
about one thing: why young Sinclair Lewis had endowed us
with a bowling alley and a swimming pool, neither of which
we possessed — unless you counted the fishpond, about eight
inches deep and six feet by three in area!
Years passed before I saw Sinclair Lewis again. He had
become editorial adviser to a publishing house, and I offered
them one of my novels, Sylvia. We met for lunch and Hal
had the sad duty of telling me that the novel was declined.
Then when I moved to California, he came to my home for
66 THE CUP OF FURY
an evening, bringing his first wife. More years passed, and
I next saw him at his New York hotel. We corresponded
sporadically, and sent each other our books. Several of mine
he praised, and I quoted his opinions; and I did the same for
him. On a dust-jacket recently, I saw what I wrote about
Babbitt when it was first issued: "I am now ready to get
out in the middle of the street and shout hurrah, for Amer-
ica's most popular novelist has sent me a copy of his new
book, Babbitt, I am here to enter my prediction that it will
be the most talked-about and the most-read novel published
in this country in my lifetime."
In Money Writes, however, I criticized Hal's novels for
lack of social vision, and this annoyed him; he never took
criticism kindly, and he wrote me a cross letter. But I was
told by a friend that in a group where my numerous faults
were under discussion, Hal was generous enough to add as a
postscript: "But you can't help liking Upton!"
I was glad of all the success that came to Lewis, and
deeply regretful for the misery. For it was as in the case of
Jack London: alcohol destroyed him.
I began to hear about it, but there was nothing I could
do; Hal always resented any effort to interfere. I met an
oldtime journalist with an absorbingly interesting story of
real life to tell, and I said to him, "You ought to get Sinclair
Lewis to help you make that into a bestseller." His answer
was, "No, thank you! He is doing his writing on booze. He
gets drunk in public and makes violent rows, and I'm too
good a quarreler myself." More details came from the writer
William E. Woodward. Bill told me that never had he seen
anyone get so blind drunk as "Red" Lewis. He had been
drunk in Woodward's home for days and nights.
The art expert, Martin Birnbaum — who was my class-
mate in college — tells of an excursion out of Venice on a
THE CUP OF FURY 67
yacht owned by the Princess Marina Raspoli. "We suddenly
missed 'Red,' and when we found him, he was so hilariously
drunk that we had to ship him back to Venice." Martin's
nephew, the late Dr. Jerome Ziegler, "was the only man who
could control [Lewis] when he was seized with a desire to
drink." Phyllis Bottome, who was a close friend, attributes his
mad drinking to his two marriage failures. She calls his first
"a most heart-rending senseless marriage," and his second
My own belief is that drinking is a cause rather than a
result of marriage failure; but I suppose it is like the problem
of the hen and the egg — each is both cause and effect.
Phyllis pays tribute to "his peculiar powers of sympathy and
kindness. I think," she says, "that he would have done any-
thing for his friends, and at any sacrifice; and I think that
any man was his friend who treated him with integrity and
good feeling." This I can confirm.
For some of his doings — such as getting slapped by Theo-
dore Dreiser, or for standing in a church pulpit and "daring"
God to prove that He existed by striking him dead on the
spot — I used to get some of the blame. The similarity in our
names caused confusion in people's minds.
I would receive his mail and he would get mine. In 1935
my wife and I took a twenty-thousand-mile motor tour,
while I lectured in thirty or forty cities. In St. Louis I had
as chairman an eminent astronomer, and he spoke as follows:
"Ladies and gentlemen, when I consented to introduce the
speaker of this evening I made a study of his life and works
and wrote a paper which I asked my son to read and revise
for me. My son informed me that I had got hold of the
wrong writer; that our speaker was not the author of Main
Street and Babbitt. So I made another study and wrote an-
other paper, which my son has approved." The astronomer
68 THE CUP OF FURY
then read a brief account of my life and works, and con-
cluded: "And now, ladies and gentlemen, I take great pleas-
ure in introducing Mr. Sinclair Lewis!"
The facts concerning our ex-furnaceman's misfortune
have been revealed in biographical material which appeared
after his death — the quart of brandy a day, the shakes, the
tapering off, the swearing off, the wine phase, the wandering
over the earth, the avoiding of friends and the seeking for
peace where there is no peace, the decline in writing power,
and the final delirium.
Hal wrote his last novel in Europe. His closest friend
at the time was Perry Miller, professor of American literature
at Harvard University; and in the April, 195 1, issue of The
Atlantic Monthly, Dr. Miller compassionately described his
friend's final months in these words:
As soon as he finished the manuscript, he
started drinking, until his Florentine physician for-
bade him spirits. When I reached him in April, he
was guzzling quantities of red wine, and despite
Aleck's strenuous efforts, he generally succeeded
in knocking himself out by afternoon. (Editor's
note: Alexander Manson was "secretary, chauffeur,
nurse, and interpreter" to Lewis during the last
months of his life.) At a Florentine restaurant he
commanded the orchestra to play the sentimental
tunes of his earlier escapades; he peeled off and
flung about five-thousand-lira notes — Babbitt on a
spree — until Aleck could get him out and pour him
into the car. By August he was drinking only beer,
but he had already had two serious heart attacks
and should not have touched even that.
I suppose hundreds of people in three decades
have seen Sinclair Lewis drunk; no doubt he made
THE CUP OF FURY 69
a vast public spectacle of himself. I cannot say
what kept him going through the years of creativ-
ity; I do know that at the end of it, his back to the
wall, facing himself drunk or sober, he did not
flinch. There was something positively reckless
about it. He was not drinking because he was
miserable and wanted solace; neither was he what
you would call a drunkard. He was no disen-
chanted, alcoholic Scott Fitzgerald, drinking com-
pulsively. There may not have been much joy in
what Red was doing, but there was still plenty of
Through a miracle of physical stamina, Hal made it to
the age of sixty-six. More tragic than any shortage of years
was the loss of productivity, the absence of joy. He must
have suffered in those last days in Rome, waiting for death
to take him out of the clutches of his tormentor.
Catastrophe struck Helicon Home Colony a couple of
months after Hal had left for New York.
At four o'clock on a Sunday morning in March I was
awakened by thundering crashes. To get out of the tower
room where I slept, I had to run along an open balcony to
the stairway. The place was afire; heated air was blowing
out of the stucco walls of the building. Flames swept up
over the balcony, and I remember how they scorched my
nightshirt and one side of my head. I ran across the open
court, over embers and broken glass, and we all shouted
alarms and searched for anyone who may have been trapped.
The place burned to the ground. And one life was lost.
JO THE CUP OF FURY
No liquor had ever been served at the Helicon Home
Colony, and I doubt that any was ever brought to the rooms.
Except this once.
A carpenter had been employed temporarily, and he
slept in an upper-story room. I was told afterwards that he
had been drinking heavily the night before; the calls, the
crashing sounds, the shouting never penetrated his stupor.
He, poor man — like so many people I've known —
had been drinking the night before because it made him
feel "gay" and "high" and "good."
I had been corresponding with George Sterling regu-
larly during all these years. We had not met; but our letters
were warm and wide-ranging and stimulating. And from
Jack London I had learned much about the California poet.
I learned that Jack left his manuscripts with George
when he went off to sea; that at such times he gave George
full authority to edit and market them. Even more: George
was authorized to do "ghost writing" when and if he needed
money; he had Jack's permission to write stories, sign the
famous London name to them, and then sell them at the high
prices Jack's by-line could command. Friendship could go
no further. Indeed, I think it should not have gone so far!
But George knew Jack's ideas and style, and he was not the
sort to abuse a friendship or take advantage of a kindness.
I remember a photograph of Sterling which Jack once
showed me. George stood as erect as an Indian, and had
72 THE CUP OF FURY
the body of an athlete. His profile bore a startling resem-
blance to Dore's profile of Dante.
George lived in Carmel, California. It was then a small
village; it had — and still has! — a greater variety of scenic
beauty than any other place I know. There is the broad
Pacific ... a sandy beach . . . and a rocky point with wind-
swept cypress trees. The village sits in a pine forest; at one
side is a fertile valley, and behind is a semi- circle of moun-
George suggested in a letter that I visit Carmel. The
pace of the past several months had been furious. After the
disaster at Helicon, I had worked on three, perhaps four
novels. I had worked in New York and then in Bermuda; I
had overworked. And then came the news of my father's
lonely death in a hospital ward.
I decided to make the trip to California. George lived
in a little bungalow with his wife, Carrie, and he borrowed
for my use a cottage belonging to Arnold Genthe, the art
Across the bay from us in Oakland was the Ruskin
Club, organized by the city's librarian. The members an-
nounced a dinner at which I would be "welcomed" to Cali-
fornia's literary community; and, of course, George was to
write and read a poem marking the occasion.
We took a train from Carmel to San Francisco, arriving
in the afternoon; and because there was time to spare, our
first stop was the Bohemian Club. George was an honored
member, their poet laureate. They held a room for him, rent
free. And he was the author of a masque for their annual
"hi-jinks," held in the summer in the redwood groves.
My host guided me to the Bohemian Club bar. The
moment he appeared, one of the members came forward and
THE CUP OF FURY 73
sought the "honor" of buying us a drink. Then another man
joined us, and he too had to buy drinks. And then the first
had to reciprocate with yet another round; and so it went.
And as I sat there, sipping thin lemonade, I wondered how
— even if they could drink it without effect — they had
so much room for so much whiskey!
Then, much later, we took the cable car down to the
ferry which crossed the waters between San Francisco and
Oakland. Standing on the front deck of the boat, looking
out over the harbor, George showed me the wavering, rain-
bow-colored circles of light riding on the water, caused by
thin slicks of oil. He explained that these had been the source
of his inspiration for The 'Wine of Wizardry, He was talking
rapidly; his sentences flamed with magnificent, glowing im-
agery; yet almost none of it was coherent. It was as though
Sterling were repeating the phrases of a great poem, but
speaking them out of their proper order, and with no logical
connecting words between each phrase. I was puzzled, and
tried my best to understand what he meant, and couldn't
imagine what was the matter with me. Finally it dawned
upon me that my friend and host was drunk. Before we got
to the banquet hall, an acquaintance took him off to be
walked around the block to try to "work it off." But
George did not reappear; someone else had to read his poem
He came to my cottage the next day in that state of
humiliation which is so painful in the drinker. And with
him came a flood of memories of the full, frustrating quarter
of a century I had spent taking care of my father; I was
resolved to have no more of drinkers. We spoke, and I told
George I was planning to leave. Tears came to his eyes, and
he said, "Upton, I give you my word of honor: if you will
74 THE CUP OF FURY
stay I will not touch another drop of liquor while you are
here." I stayed on at Carmel as long as possible, and George
kept his word.
I remember one day: we got buckets full of abalone,
those sea creatures with one curved shell which cling to the
rocks deep under the water. At low tide you dive and pry
them off with a steel hook. They were cooked into a deli-
cious stew, and all George's friends, the writers and painters
of Carmel, assembled for a party. George had written "The
Abalone Song," and a decade of poets exercised their wits in
finding rhymes for the word "abalone" — bony, stony,
groany, macaroni, and so on. Many brought liquor, but
George remained a sober man at the feast.
A school of poets centered about San Francisco, and
George knew them all. He told me about a revered older
poet, Ina Coolbrith, who had befriended Jack London when
he was a boy; and about Nora May French, a young girl
who had written lovely verses, but who later committed
suicide by jumping off the cliff at Point Lobos. George was
sensitive and reticent on the subject, and did not tell me the
reason; others, however, described how she had become an
early slave to drink.
Another poet who lived nearby was Joaquin Miller,
whose home was on the heights above Oakland; he proudly,
punningly called himself "the Poet Lariat of the Sierras."
Miller was the author of a famous poem about Columbus,
which perhaps you have read in one of your school books.
It is in most of them: "Sail on! Sail on!" A drinking man,
Miller had spent his early years in the "doggeries" of San
Francisco. Then he took his verses to England, where he
wore a sombrero and chaps and highheeled boots with spurs,
and made an immense impression on the aristocracy by
smoking two cigars at once. He was "the real Wild West,"
THE CUP OF FURY J%
he told them. Now he was a patriarch with flowing white
whiskers, talking about his past and announcing that the
source of his inspiration was whiskey.
Another local writer with a drinking history was Am-
brose Bierce. Friends told me it was Bierce who was re-
sponsible for George's weakness. George had been educated
in a Catholic school on Long Island, and had been a pupil and
friend of Father Tabb, the poet. When he arrived in Cali-
fornia to work for his rich uncle, Bierce met him — and, at
his most sensitive age, led George into reckless drinking.
Bierce was a brilliant writer, and described himself as "an
eminent tankardman." His tongue was ferocious, and his
hatreds deep; he had allied himself with my traditional op-
ponents, the Hearst newspapers, and had chosen me as one
of his targets. In fact, he broke with both George Sterling
and Jack London because they remained my friends.
A prolific author, his collected works fill twelve full
volumes. His war stories were realistic and noteworthy; his
philosophies were destructive. In The Devil's Dictionary, one
of the most acid books ever written, he delighted in defini-
tions such as this:
"HAPPINESS — an agreeable sensation arising
from contemplating the misery of another."
Bierce was portrayed in these words by a fellow-cynic,
"There was nothing of the milk of kindness in old
Ambrose; he did not get the nickname of Bitter Bierce for
nothing. What delighted him most in this life was the
spectacle of human cowardice and folly. He put man, intel-
lectually, somewhere between the sheep and the horned cat-
tle, and as a hero somewhere below the rats. . . So far in this
life, indeed, I have encountered no more thorough-going
cynic than Bierce was."
j6 THE CUP OF FURY
Bierce filled the voids in his world by drinking; yet
his amazing constitution carried him into his seventieth
year — a most unhappy one. He had reached that stage of
alcoholism where it is torment to be alive. And in this
period of anguish, he selected a strange way to end his life:
he wandered off into Mexico, then aflame with war and
banditry, and died in a manner unreported and still un-
known. "There — if legend is to be believed," says Menc-
ken, "he marched into the revolution then going on, and
had himself shot. . ."
This, then, was the atmosphere in which George Sterling
fought hopelessly and helplessly against alcohol; the setting
in which Jack London had determined to drink "skillfully
and discreetly"; the world in which Carrie Sterling, George's
wife, struggled in a web of doom. I have a photograph of
these three, sailing on a boat in San Francisco bay; it is a
lovely picture of three handsome, talented, youthful people.
Think: all three of them were to take their own lives!
It was long after I left Carmel. I had gone back to
work — in Greenwich Village, in Florida, in Alabama, in
Europe. I had visited England and Holland, Paris and
London, and spent magnificent hours with Romain Rolland,
George Bernard Shaw, Frederik van Eeden, and H. G. Wells.
And then I returned to New York City. George Ster-
ling was there. And there, too, was a young lady from
Mississippi. I have much to tell you about this lady, who
later became my wife and has been my wife for forty-three
years. I think most highly of her, although I am not encour-
aged to say so in public. She has no vanity in her makeup,
and shuns publicity.
THE CUP OF FURY JJ
Her name was Mary Craig Kimbrough, and she was
born in the Delta district of Mississippi, where there were
nine Negroes to each white. She has endless stories to tell
about these primitive black folk and the white land-owners
who continued, even after the Civil War, to act as their
"masters." She discovered that the sophisticates of New
York and Europe would leave all other topics to gather
around and listen to her tales. They had read much the same
sort of thing in a hundred romances, and called it senti-
mental and passe. But here it was, come to life in the person
of one young woman. Moonlight and star-jessamine. Live
oaks with Spanish moss hanging from giant branches. Real
Negro mammies and former slaves. Beaus coming on horse-
back, and serenades under the windows, with Negro bands
playing the music they heard drifting out from the "white
folks' " pianos — and changing this music into a new idiom.
And while the black men played, young white serenaders
capered and danced on the lawn below the windows of the
"big house." There were stately balls in Craig's home,
opening with the "grand march" and lasting until dawn.
On one such occasion a fire started in the second story
of a mansion, and it was impossible to put it out; and so the
young people went on dancing until the roof began to
cave in. Suitors from everywhere came bringing bouquets;
one young man outdid the others by coming to call with
a servant behind "toting" a whole tree in blossom. Another
brought Craig a live wildcat he had captured. This fero-
cious creature broke loose in the house, causing pande-
Craig's father was a planter, a bank president, and
later a judge. She had six tall brothers and two sisters, all
younger than herself, and she had taken care of them while
her mother toured the state, campaigning first for a home
78 THE CUP OF FURY
for Confederate veterans, and second against the dire threat
of "woman suffrage." Craig tells a story about her mother:
the Judge came home hungry one evening, and "Aunt" Ca-
therine, ex-slave and a marvelous cook, informed him that
there was no dinner to serve. "Miss Ma'y ain't tole me
what to have," Catherine explained. The Judge tip -toed up
to the attic where Miss Ma'y had locked herself in; and when
he tapped on the door, her response was, "Go away and be
quiet! I am writing an article on * Woman the Homemaker'."
Craig attended Mississippi State College for "Women,
and then a finishing school on Fifth Avenue in New York.
She later returned to that school with a younger sister, and
there had as private tutor in literature a young instructor
from Columbia named Clayton Hamilton. Hamilton told
Craig that she could write, and so she had gone back home
and at her mother's urging had written a book with a florid
title, The Queen of a Mystic Court. Her subject was Win-
nie Davis, "the daughter of the Confederacy." Judge Kim-
brough had been a friend of the Jefferson Davis family, and
executor of what was left of the estate; and Craig's family
had all the letters concerning a very touching story of the
Confederacy. Craig could write that story as no one else, for
she had herself been so very much a "Southern belle."
At the age of seventeen, a lovely creature with red-gold
hair, and eyes to match, Craig became engaged to a young
man of her county. The two fathers were the wealthiest in
the community. The match was considered perfect, except
that the boy was what in the South they call "wild." He
drank; and Craig's father wisely insisted upon a long en-
gagement. Then a year later the Judge came to Craig and
told her she must break off the engagement. She had never
disobeyed him in her life, and never thought of doing so
now. Broken-hearted, she was sent off to spend the winter
THE CUP OF FURY 79
in Virginia, while the boy went off to New Orleans on a
long spree. A few years later, he took his own life.
To Craig many new suitors presented themselves. Her
mother pleaded on behalf of one of them, but in vain; Craig
was certain that she would never marry, nor let herself fall
in love again.
In one aspect, her life paralleled mine. In my case it
was my father and uncles who drank; and in her case it
was not only the man she had hoped to marry, but also —
much earlier — a favorite uncle, her mother's brother. He
bore an honored name; he was a lineal descendant of the
English noblewoman, Lady Southworth, who had come to
Massachusetts and married the first colonial governor.
Craig's uncle was a man who owned two plantations;
a handsome man with elegant manners and a kind heart. A
man who grieved over the fate of the black people, their
ignorance and their sufferings, and grieved over the larger
problem of racial inequality — for which, however, he could
see no solution. But he was nevertheless a man with nothing
to do: his managers ran the two plantations. He would
"drown his sorrow" in drink, and there were those in town
who encouraged him to drink and then gambled with him.
He sometimes gambled away half the income from a planta-
tion in a single night, and all such debts he considered debts
The person he loved best, next to his wife, was his little
niece, Mary Craig Kimbrough; and she alone could handle
him when he drank. Someone in town would come by to
say that he was in trouble. A plantation hand would hitch
up a horse, and Craig would drive into town. She would find
her uncle and beg him to come home, and he would make
excuses and try to evade her; but when she insisted he would
meekly climb into the carriage. And then at home the
80 THE CUP OF FURY
women of the family would go through that sad sobering-up
routine which my mother and I had learned so well.
This had gone on all through Craig's childhood. One
time when they were trying to keep liquor away from him,
he remembered a cask of brandied peaches aging in the
cellar. He bored a little hole in it and sucked the brandy
out with a straw. This kind of thing went on and grew
worse — until at last the wretched man took poison. His
dead body was brought to Craig's home, and it was her duty
to sit with her aunt all night, while the bereaved woman lay
moaning, over and over and over, "Oh, my poor thing! My
Craig journeyed to New York with the Winnie Davis
manuscript, seeking a publisher. She had shed her tears and
had begun to think. She was anxious to meet the giants of
the literary world, sure that these people would have an-
swers to her questions. She was staying in the home of
friends, and was told that a famous California poet was
coming for a visit — George Sterling. He was alone, now,
estranged from Carrie. And he was attracted to Craig as
though drawn by a magnet. She did not reciprocate his
feelings, but enjoyed talking with him and hearing his ideas.
I sometimes joined in these sprightly hours of conversation.
One day during the period when Craig was revising the
Winnie Davis manuscript, she was walking on Riverside
Drive with George Sterling. I happened along, and I ex-
claimed in my usual tactless, talk-first- and- think- afterwards
fashion: "You don't look well, Craig. So thin — you look
like a skull!"
They walked on; the poet was exasperated, and ex-
claimed, "Really — I'm going to kill that man someday!"
But Craig only laughed and said, "He's the first man who
ever told me the truth. I believe I will marry him." She
THE CUP OF FURY 8 1
said it partly as a jest; it was the way she had been taught
— to tease men, to make disconcerting remarks, to throw
them off balance and cause them to reveal their true
character. But what she really meant was that she was tired
We are all determined by our temperaments. Craig was
certain to prefer the social reformer over the art-for-art's-
sake poet. Also, she had come to know John Barleycorn and
all his seasons and stratagems, and she would give her pre-
ference to the man who turned down his wine glass at a
dinner party. When it came my turn to walk with her on
Riverside Drive, she was amused but not too troubled to
observe that I had put on my "Sunday best" gloves in her
honor — but at the same time was wearing tennis shoes!
Forty-three years later she still laughs at my usually-
Our first home was a little cottage which stood on
the edge of a woodland on the outskirts of Croton, New
York. Clement Wood, a poet, served as my secretary. An-
other poet, Frank Shay, could usually be found washing
dishes at the sink, his eyes riveted on a propped-up book.
George Sterling used to come to visit us, and chopped down
some chestnut trees and cut them up for the fireplace.
George was "on the water-wagon" then; he was serene and
Nearby in Croton was a large house on a little hill,
and in it lived the sister of Isadora Duncan, and a troupe of
their adopted children in training as dancers. In peaceful,
pleasant Croton, that home was perhaps the loveliest of all
places to visit. Floyd Dell, who also lived nearby, was led
to write a sonnet which began with these lines:
THE CUP OF FURY 83
Is this the morning of the world, and these
Stars from the burning hand of God outflung?
I had met Isadora in New York and had seen her danc-
ing on the stage of Carnegie Hall. It was like no other
dancing seen before or since, and I lack words to describe
its supernal beauty. Isadora danced the great music of Beet-
hoven, Tchaikowsky and Chopin. She danced the great
emotions of freedom, love, grief and revolt. One thing I
hold against the motion-picture industry is that it made
no permanent record of the unequalled art of Isadora
Yet concerning this great soul I came to possess fright-
ening knowledge. She became a dipsomaniac, struggling
in vain against the need to drink. Three tragedies in her
life sent her again and again to the momentary forgetful-
ness of alcohol. First, the death of her two children —
Deirdre and Patrick, along with their nurse — in an auto-
mobile accident in Paris. Next, the loss of a hoped-for child
— the baby was born dead. And then the ironic happening
when she went to Greece under the patronage of the King
to revive the ancient art of the dance. She brought her
famed troupe of adopted children with her; one of them had
grown mature and beautiful. And the man whom Isadora
loved fell in love with this young girl.
As she tells the story: "While I endeavored to teach my
pupils Beauty, Calm, Philosophy, and Harmony, I was in-
wardly writhing in the clutch of most deadly torment.
. . .The only resource I had was to assume an armor of ex-
aggerative gaiety and try to drown my sufferings in the
heady wines of Greece every night that we supped by the
sea. There might certainly have been a nobler way, but I
was not then capable of finding it,"
84 THE CUP OF FURY
Alas, she never did find it. Max Eastman, who knew
her well, told me that her drinking was "insane"; and she
died in an accident which was surely as insane as it was
needless. Isadora went for an automobile ride with a scarf
wrapped around her neck; a scarf so long that it fluttered in
the wind. It was long enough to get caught in a whirling
wheel of the car. The scarf jerked tight and snapped her
Isadora Duncan never achieved the fame in her own
country which was accorded her abroad. Acclaimed in Lon-
don, Paris, Berlin, Athens and Moscow, she was received
coldly in our major cities. In New York's Greenwich Vil-
lage, a cult of young dancers and artists recognized her im-
mortal talents; but in this same small area of New York,
where so many brilliant minds were at work, the code of
the "Flaming Twenties" had already become ingrained. And
people hurtled from enthusiasm to enthusiasm, from idol to
In the old days, Greenwich Village had been a center
of fashion and wealth; then, after the turn of the century,
many of the fine old mansions were converted into board-
ing-houses. Others were transformed into dark and dismal
lodgings with tiny shops on the ground floors, and even
tinier apartments above. The area was discovered by writers,
artists and musicians who wanted to live as cheaply as pos-
sible and "do what they pleased." Young radicals came to
the area; the Village became the battleground of the right-
wing Socialists and the left-wing Socialists, the right-wing
Communists and the left-wing Communists, and a few
anarchists. Here, in short, was post-war ferment — bub-
bling, explosive, intoxicating and intoxicated.
The young people of the Village were milling about
THE CUP OF FURY 85
blindly, seeking pleasure and trampling one another. Their
credo was stated in the lines of two brief poems.
The substance of the first was this: Because she loved
you on Wednesday, you must not expect that she will there-
fore love you on Thursday.
I quote the second:
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends —
It gives a lovely light,
I have forgotten when and where I met Edna St. Vin-
cent Millay, who wrote these verses. But no one who knew
her can forget her vivid, charming personality. Everybody
loved Edna; she set the tempo of the time; she served as a
minstrel for the madness.
Phyllis Bottome, who knew her intimately, says in a
letter: "Edna was a very strange character. . . At nineteen,
you may remember, she won the Pulitzer Prize for her
poems; and when I first knew her, considerably later on
in her late twenties in Europe, she was already very spoiled;
but she did not drink then, and I think only began to some
years after her marriage."
I will tell you of a few of the people who "burned their
candles at both ends" — people whom I first came to know
in Greenwich Village. Some, like Edna, worked on for many
years, writing and lecturing and aware of the changes in
the world. Others "gave a lovely light" ever so briefly.
Others died so miserably that it is hard to remember that
they were once loved and applauded.
One of the shining stars of the Greenwich Village galaxy
in the Twenties was Maxwell Bodenheim. He wrote "im-
agistic poetry," and highly-spiced novels with such titles
86 THE CUP OF FURY
as Replenishing Jessica, Naked on Roller Skates, and Crazy
Man, As the most Bohemian of the many Bohemians who
lived and worked in the Village, Bodenheim enjoyed a great
vogue; his books were bestsellers, and money was no problem.
Beautiful young women pursued him. He lived in an alco-
What follows, however, sounds like an old-fashioned
moralistic story out of those bound volumes of the Christian
Herald which I read as a child in the home of my Methodist
grandfather. "Bodey" became a miserable bum. He picked
up a few coins here and there by posing as a blind man; at
other times, he slumped over tables in Village bars, offering
to write "poetry" for tourists who would buy him a drink.
Here is the rest of the story, as the New York Times
told it on February 8, 1954:
Maxwell Bodenheim, the personification of
Greenwich Village and Bohemia of the nineteen
twenties, was found murdered with his wife yes-
terday in a dingy fifth-floor furnished room on
the fringes of the Bowery . . . The aging, unkempt
writer was lying on his back on the floor of the
unheated, five-dollar-a-week room. His attrac-
tive, dark-haired wife lay on the room's single
cot. On a small table nearby were copies of
scribbled poems, a pad of paper and pencils, and
an empty liquor bottle.
"The motive was not robbery," Chief of De-
tectives Thomas Nielson said. Friends of the
poet said they believe the slaying might have been
the result of a drinking dispute. . .
For the last few years Mr. Bodenheim had
been a pathetic and ineffectual figure, wandering
through the streets of the Village and the Bowery.
THE CUP OF FURY 87
But in the nineteen twenties and thirties he was
one of the most spectacular and controversial as
well as one of the most eccentric of the country's
He was the laureate of Bohemia, and a fab-
ulous literary scapegrace. His was the era of bath-
tub gin, long-haired poets, and bobbed-haired
women; of all-night drinking bouts, free love,
and intellectual anarchism.
. . .A handsome and striking man in his
youth, Mr. Bodenheim was always surrounded by
feminine admirers. In 1928 he was involved in
a series of scandals when one of these committed
suicide, a second attempted suicide, and a third
died in a railway wreck. . .
In the nineteen thirties, when his books and
his poems stopped selling, Mr. Bodenheim slipped
into the poverty that marked the rest of his life.
For a while he was on relief. In 1935 when he
was reported dying from tuberculosis, Greenwich
Village poets and painters organized a fund drive
to send him to the West. They raised $12, and he
stayed in New York. . .
George Cram Cook was another luminary of the Green-
wich Village literary scene. The author of The Chasm^ a
novel which I admired greatly, George played a major part
in many of New York City's cultural activities. He and
his wife, Susan Glaspell, organized the Playwrights' Theatre
in 191 5; earlier, he had founded the Provincetown Players
on Cape Cod, in "an old fish-house which Mrs. Wilbur
Daniel Steele had taken for a studio, at the end of Mary
Heaton Vorse's wharf." If you want an unusual picture
88 THE CUP OF FURY
of George — or "Jig," as we called him — read Floyd Dell's
novel of the "lost generation," Moon-calf. Jig was the
model for Tom Alden in that novel.
Cook was the discoverer of Eugene O'Neill. He was
applauded as a poet, playwright, and novelist; and then,
suddenly, he disappeared from the scene, and the next we
heard he and Susan had gone to live in Greece.
Jig died there, and Susan later told his story in a book
called The Road to the Temple. In it she took what seems
to me to be a singular view of her husband's heavy drinking.
All his life this man had a habit of occasion-
ally getting drunk and seeing truth from a new
plane. He saw then, saw what was pretending,
in himself, and others. It would begin in good
times with friends — self- consciousness and timid-
ities going down in the warmth of sympathetic
drinking. There was a sublimated playfulness,
ideas became a great game, and in play with them
something that had not been before came into
And then she quotes her husband's own comments on
drinking. Some people, he said, "drink only with their bellies.
But true drinking is an affair of the head and heart. There
must be a second, finer ferment in the mind — a brewing
and refining of raw wit and wisdom."
Now again it is Jig's wife who is speaking. "Long
afterwards," she says, "he had what I venture to call a
somewhat God-like relation of wine and vision. Drinking
was one of the things in which Jig succeeded, in which he
realized himself as human being and artist. Yet he saw the
black thing it may become."
Yes, he saw it — but apparently his wife did not. Jig
THE CUP OF FURY 89
had been filled with dreams of the classic glory of Greece.
He yearned to the peasant life of Greece as a child seeking
the pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow. They had left
America and travelled three thousand miles to fulfill this
hope of his life. And at last they reached the mountain near
Delphi where the two summits of Parnassus reach to the
sky. One of these summits is consecrated to Apollo and
to the Muses, the nine daughters of Zeus who preside over
poetry, song, the arts and sciences. The other summit is
sacred to Bacchus, the god of wine. "To climb Parnassus"
is to write golden poetry. Just to see it, to stand before it,
had been the dream of George Cram Cook.
And what did he say after peering up at Parnassus? His
wife quotes his words: "Well, come on, let's go some place
and have a drink."
"Next day," she continues in her book, "was one of
those times of particular beauty in our household. 'Hang-
over days' we called them, and they have a subtle, fragile,
sensitive quality. Satisfied by a violent encounter with life,
one has a rarefied sense of being something nearer pure spirit.
These are isolated days, no use trying to go on with things.
Perhaps not so isolated as suspended. A woman who has
never lived with a man who sometimes 'drinks to excess' has
missed one of the satisfactions that is like a gift — taking
care of the man she loves when he has had this sweetness as
of a new-born soul."
My comments on these passages from Susan Glaspell's
book appeared in a volume I wrote, titled Money Writes.
They were as follows:
I cannot recall ever having read a greater
piece of nonsense from the pen of a modern
emancipated woman. The plain truth, which
stares at us between every line of the closing
90 THE CUP OF FURY
narrative, is that poor Jig Cook, a poet who
pinned his faith on Bacchus instead of Minerva,
was at the age of fifty a pitiful, white-haired
sot. . . dead to the whole modern world, wander-
ing about lost among ragged peasants. He died
of an infection utterly mysterious to his wife —
who apparently knows nothing of the effects
It seems to me now that unwittingly, innocently, a
husband or wife can help John Barleycorn in his almost in-
evitable march to victory. The "good" mate does not nag;
she mixes the cocktail, she proffers the flask. The "good"
spouse does not make a scene; he sits silent as another round
is ordered, as another bottle is drained. There are other ways
— but so often the easy way seems the "best" way.
I thought of this when Edna St. Vincent Millay came
to Pasadena in 1940 on a lecture tour. I greeted her in a
dressing room of the Pasadena Community Theatre, and we
sat down to chat. With her was her husband, Eugen Bois-
sevain, a Dutch importer. I had met him years before in
Greenwich Village; he was a charming, kind fellow who
had previously been married to Inez Milholland, the suf-
frage worker. When it came time for Edna to go on stage
and speak, Eugen drew a flask from his back pocket and
handed it to his wife. She took a heavy swig. Nothing was
said; evidently, this was routine.
I went out and listened while she read a dozen or more
of her poems to an audience of ladies; then when it was over,
I went behind the scenes again; and there Eugen produced
the flask again, and I watched Edna empty it.
I know that people use alcohol to "relieve their ten-
sions." The Premier of France argues all night before the
National Assembly, and then goes to the bar "for a quick
THE CUP OF FURY 9 1
one" to settle his nerves. The movies and television shows
delight in picturing the nervous young man who is about to
"pop the question" — of course he must first go to a saloon
where he orders a "double" to bolster his courage! Yet I
do not remember many people who are able to stop after
this one short swig or one quick snort. As Goethe says in
a line translated by Carlyle: "Choose well; your choice is
brief and yet endless."
In the flaming Twenties, the "choice" was again and
again made in favor of drink. Genius would flare and then
flame away, much as alcohol flares and then burns itself
away in moments.
I remember when my brother-in-law happened to men-
tion to me that he had met a bright young novelist, newly
clutched to the bosom of the "fashionable set." I asked:
"What sort of person is he?" And the answer was: "He
and his wife are both drinking themselves to death."
We were talking about F. Scott Fitzgerald, shining star
of the jazz-age kaleidoscope of bootleggers, bathtub gin and
flappers. Scott and Zelda, his wif e* wanted pleasure, and they
wanted it fast. They lived fast and they died young —
Zelda in a mental institution, Scott in the torments of dip-
somania. His friends called him "F. Scotch Fitzgerald."
Drink was the central theme of his life — and cynical, con-
fused and tragic drinking was a central theme in his books,
which float along on rivers of alcohol. He was a great artist
who was converted by liquor into a pathological study.
And his candle did not last the night.
In Baltimore, the city where I was born and where
many of my relatives made their homes, intellectual thought
was dominated by Henry Louis Mencken, whose violent and
vitriolic articles against Prohibition, Puritanism, and middle-
class morality appeared regularly in the Baltimore Sun,
Mencken's influence in the i92o's was vast; authorities
quoted him, college students adulated and admired him, and
his pronouncements made frontpage news. I doubt that any-
one was neutral about Mencken; either they were the targets
of his barbed attacks, or they exalted him as an inspired ene-
my of hypocrisy, bigotry and stupidity.
My Uncle Bland — who had generously loaned me two
hundred dollars when I could not find a publisher for my
.first novel — lived in Baltimore. He had been devouring
Mencken's essays in the "Sunpaper" for years, but the two
liad never met. I brought them together for dinner one
THE CUP OF FURY 93
evening when I was in the city gathering material for a
book; and a few words about that event might serve as an
introduction to this part of my narrative.
Uncle Bland was one of the richest men in Baltimore.
A descendant of John Randolph, the Virginia statesman who
for a time served as Speaker of the House, Uncle Bland had
moved to Maryland after the Civil War; he had brought
with him nothing but determination, an honored name, and
business acumen. I remember walking through the down-
town business-section with him once, when I was five or
six years old. He stopped at the city's leading grocery store,
and persuaded the proprietor to buy stock in a projected
bonding concern to be called the United States Fidelity and
Guarantee Company. The company, with John Randolph
Bland as its president, prospered mightily; before long it
had branches in every important city in the world.
Once Uncle Bland made a tour of the country to meet
his many company agents and executives. He held a banquet
in Pasadena for some two hundred employees, filling the
largest private dining-room of the biggest local hotel. I was
in California at the time, and was invited to attend. We all
sang "Annie Laurie" and "Nellie Gray," and a number of
other songs calculated to work up family feelings and battle-
spirit; and were then exhorted to go out and do our best for
U. S. Fidelity and Guarantee, presumably by taking business
away from other fellows.
A practical man, Uncle Bland recognized the oncoming
of Prohibition before the legislation actually became part
of our Constitution in 191 8. He laid in a goodly stock of
wines, whiskeys, brandies and liqueurs in the cellar of his
Catonsville mansion — only the best brands and vintages
for John Randolph Bland, and they cost him six thousand
dollars in all. Then, as he always did, he moved to his town
94 THE CUP OF FURY
house for the winter. Thieves entered the mansion by the
cellar door, and carried off every case of his treasures.
This loss was the main subject of a dinner party at
which I introduced Uncle Bland to Henry Mencken. Menc-
ken told about the brands which he preferred, and my uncle
told about the brands which he had stocked. Mencken spoke
lovingly of the beers he had sampled in Germany, and Uncle
Bland described the wines he had sampled in France. Menc-
ken said everything he had to say on the subject of prohibi-
tion, and it was enough to have filled an issue of the "Sun-
paper," with material left over for an issue of The Smart Set.
And every once in a while Mencken would cast a sly glance
in my direction, for he knew that nothing could exasperate
me more than an evening of drinking and talking about
In a sense, our relationship for years to come was kept
by Mencken on this extraordinarily petty level: his desire
to have me recognize whiskey and beer as wholesome and
beneficial — or, at the very least, as harmless. Once when
he was coming to visit me in California, newspaper reporters
interviewed me and asked if I was going to make a Socialist
out of Mencken. My answer was yes, that I would if I
could. When this comment was reported to Mencken, he
replied: "No, I'm going to make a drunkard out of Sin-
clair." I remember another one of his taunts. Mencken had
written a book which I considered an ill-informed and big-
oted attack on democracy; he sent it to me with the inscrip-
tion, "To Upton Sinclair — to make him yell."
My yells were loud, but not nearly so widely-heard as
my friend's. In 1924, Henry started a new magazine with
George Jean Nathan — the American Mercury, a biting,
iconoclastic, and wonderfully literate publication which fea-
tured contributions by many of America's best-known
THE CUP OF FURY 9$
writers. I "yelled," t0 use n * s words, about many of the mag-
azine's policies, particularly the declaration that "this mag-
azine is committed to the return of the American saloon."
Mencken answered with the statement that "the question did
not permit of discussion."
Too many other things "did not permit of discussion"
in his publication. Mencken talked about freedom; all his
theories were based on freedom; his praise was for freedom,
and his political and economic faith required it. But when
he became editor of the American Mercury, he practiced
strict and rigid control of what writers had to say. He was
the final arbiter of what appeared between the arsenic-green
covers of American Mercury. Sometimes he did not allow
the truth to reach print if it controverted his "policies."
I once wrote an article for him about Edward Mac-
Dowell, the composer, whose Columbia University music
class I had attended. It was a non-controversial piece of
reminiscence, and Mencken called it a "charming thing." He
wanted me to do other articles, similar ones, about other
interesting people I had known. And the first of the series
was to be about George Sterling.
But — and this was a big "but" — Mencken stipulated
that the article could not mention George's alcoholism. This
was impossible; I argued against it, aghast at Mencken's self-
delusion that drinking does no harm and has no effects on
the writer's mind. But he would not change his position.
Not even after the macabre tragedy in which he himself
played an unwitting role.
Mencken was in California on a trip. His journey "West
had occasioned excitement and interest and frivolity. I
remember his own diverting account of what happened to
him as he crossed the country on the Southern Pacific. The
general passenger agent had telegraphed the district super-
9 6 THE CUP OF FURY
intendent of the railroad line; and this worthy had notified
the conductor of the train and all the station agents on the
way: "Mencken is on the train!" Hospitality did not cease
at any hour of the day or night. The Pullman porter con-
jured up a magical mint julep; the train conductor produced
real Scotch, or so at least he said. And at every stop there
was a local deputation with flowers and brass bands and
beautiful smiling maidens, and admirers congregating to
sing "Hail to the Chief!" Mencken was short and solidly
made, with bright china-blue eyes and the round rosy face
of a cherub. But the rosy face grew apoplectic as he de-
scribed his weary efforts to close his eyes in sleep while
visitors rapped on his compartment door, and bands blared
at station stops.
No one could have looked forward with more excite-
ment to Mencken's stay in California than George Sterling.
Mencken was more than an editor to George — he was his
hero. In a letter George wrote shortly before Mencken's visit,
he said: "I just sold an article to Mencken, about a prize-
fighter I used to tag around after, as a youth of 18. Mencken
is to be in Texas in October, and says he is coming on to the
coast to visit me for a week, which will stop all this water-
George did stop the "nonsense." He went off on one of
his "tears." Then a reaction of misery and depression set in.
And then in the Bohemian Club — the club for which he had
written his best work, a play called Truth — in this club
where he was loved and honored, George swallowed a dose of
cyanide of potassium.
Mencken wrote me a letter about Sterling's suicide.
"Whatever George told you in moments of katzen jammer,"
he wrote, "I am sure he got a great deal more fun out of
alcohol than woe. It was his friend for many years and made
THE CUP OF FURY 97
life tolerable. He committed suicide in the end not because
he wanted to get rid of drink, but simply because he could
no longer drink enough to give him any pleasure."
I published my comment on this statement:
Was any more poisonous nonsense ever
penned by an intellectual man? How many pleas-
ures there are which do not pall with age, and
do not destroy their devotees! The pleasure of
knowledge, for example — the gaining of it and
helping to spread it. The pleasure of sports; I play
tennis, and it is just as much fun to me at forty-
eight as it was at fourteen. The pleasure of music;
I play the violin, after a fashion, and my friend
Mencken plays it better, I hope — and does he
find that every year he has to play more violently
in order to hear it, and that after playing he
suffers agonies of sickness, remorse and dread?
I say, for shame upon an intellectual man who
cannot make such distinctions; for shame upon
a teacher of youth who has no care whether he
sets their feet upon the road to wisdom and hap-
piness, or to misery and suicide!
Both Henry Mencken and I lived to see time deal with
many of the things about which we quarrelled violently in
private and in print. We crossed swords during the early years
of the American Mercury, and I recall making a half- serious
offer to write an article analyzing the editor of that maga-
zine, showing how his ignorance of economics made his
thinking about the modern world futile. (My suggestion
met with no favor!) Again we disagreed violently about
alcoholism, and what it did to my beloved friend. And dur-
ing my campaign for Governor of California, we had vast
differences of opinion, and Mencken's editorials about my
98 THE CUP OF FURY
campaign were persistently incorrect. Our friendship was a
long series of feuds, punctuated by cheerful visits and vigor-
ous correspondence until his death early in 1956.
I cannot help but wonder just what other contributions
that brilliant, restless mind would have been had it not been
so occupied for so many years with the trivia of brands,
vintages, and lagers. And I cannot help but wish that he
had used his tremendous personality and immense wit not
to condone maudlin, drunken sprees — but to prevent them.
On the other hand, Mencken insisted that I have been
too much occupied during my life with the dangers of
drinking. No one would be rash enough, of course, to claim
that this "preoccupation" has interfered with the quantity
of books and pamphlets and articles that I have produced —
for indeed, words have tumbled from my pen with the
rapidity of leaves falling from a tree in a gale. As long ago
as 1938 — before my "Lanny Budd" books were published
— a statistician estimated that some 732 books bearing my
name had been published in forty-seven languages in over
thirty different countries.
No, their criticism might be that never having been a
"social" drinker or a "moderate" drinker, I cannot under-
stand the pleasures of the grape, nor appreciate the warmth
it is supposed to generate, nor realize how harmless its effects
may be when it is taken with restraint. My answer is that
I have had so many other kinds of intoxication — looking at
nature, reading great poetry, listening to music, and above
all, seeking and getting knowledge, that I have never had
the slightest interest in liquor. As a youth, I took on oc-
casional Sundays a sip of Communion wine; it was claret, I
believe, but I don't remember the taste. In any event, my
thoughts when the wine touched my lips were religious, not
those of the gourmet.
THE CUP OF FURY 99
Later, when my first books had been published, I was
invited by the journalist Arthur Brisbane to meet the Danish
critic, George Brandes, who had read and praised my work.
We dined in Delmonico's, then New York City's most fash-
ionable restaurant. Brisbane ordered a bottle of champagne;
and when I mentioned that I had never tasted it, I was invited
to seize the opportunity. I took one sip and said that I could
scarcely tell it from apple juice; then I left the rest in the
glass while I talked with Brandes about literature and life.
Finally, on a long canoe trip in Canada, we were caught
in a cold, penetrating rainstorm, and were soaked to the skin.
"We had paddled forty miles through a chain of lakes and
streams in one day; and when we finally put up a tent and
crawled in, I was shivering and blue. I was offered some
whiskey and drank a small quantity of it from a tin cup.
I immediately felt a warm glow and fell sound asleep, awaken-
ing without ill effects from the exhaustion, the cold rain, or
the whiskey. I considered this a medicinal use of alcohol, and
would use it again under similar circumstances. But none
such have arisen in my life.
Obviously, then, I cannot testify on the pleasures of
drink. I can remember how often, however, I have seen peo-
ple who were blind to the pleasures of this astonishing, fas-
cinating world simply because they did drink.
Soon after my first books were published, I met Alfred
Henry Lewis, a journalist and writer of fiction. Lewis had
created an imaginary Arizona town, Wolfville, and he peo*
pled it with an amusing set of characters. He told their
stories in such works as Wolfville Days and Wolfville Folks.
Very much a man about town, Lewis offered to show
me the "real New York." "We sat in an old hotel on Broad-
way, and he told me the "inside story" of New York politics,
graft and corruption. Then we began to move from popular
IOO THE CUP OF FURY
spot to popular spot, and he introduced me as we went to
one Broadway character after another. Before long we were
behind the scenes in a theatre, talking to George M. Cohan.
He was dressed in his stage costume — gay summer clothes,
a straw hat, a fancy little bamboo cane. Then came the signal
for him to go on stage, and we heard the opening chorus of
"Give My Regards to Broadway." And we moved out again
into the Broadway night, off to the famed drinking place
named "Considine's." Here I was introduced to a genial con-
fidence man; then to two other men, described as "the best
burglar in New York" and "the finest forger in all the United
States." Next I met a Supreme Court judge, and a Tammany
Hall politician who had been so bold in his depredations that
he had been put under indictment. Then out into Broadway
we went again, for a tour of the "night spots."
They were neither so elaborate nor expensive in those
days, and the entertainment consisted only of a piano and
some nasal singing. But I remember in each place the sight
of men and women half -asleep and heavy-lidded, alone in
secret communion with their liquor-filled glasses. This had
been the sight I had seen all through the night — people, sod-
den and dazed, out for "a good time." And I thought how
many wonderful things there are in this world, so much to
do and so much to learn — and so much of it being lost in
exchange for the measly, momentary "warm glow" of
All my life I have been able to say that I am "drunk
without alcohol." To me this universe is one vast mystery
story, fascinating beyond any power of words to tell. If I
could have my own way, I would stay here a million years
to watch what happens.
I am anxious to know "what is going to happen next."
I want to know more about what really happened in the past,
THE CUP OF FURY 1 01
and I read history. I am also absorbed by astronomy, and by
the amazing discoveries which men are making with the new
tools of this science: reflecting telescopes, radio telescopes,
spectroscopes. I belong to the Astronomical Society of the
Pacific, and I read their bulletins, and it is as if I see the
incredible universe expanding before my eyes. The nearest
of the fixed stars is some twenty trillion miles away; and now
the 200-inch telescope on Mount Palomar is exploring galaxies
which are a billion light-years away, each galaxy having bil-
lions of stars like our own galaxy.
Recently I read an article by Harlow Shapley in which
he discusses the chances of there being other worlds inhabited
by intelligent life. Figuring the probabilities on a mathemati-
cal basis, he says there should exist a hundred million inhabited
planets, large and small. How I would like to visit them —
and some day I may, since both Kant and Einstein have told
us that space and time are forms of our thinking.
And then there is the infinitely small universe which
science has discovered in the nucleus of the atom. Appar-
ently there are as many nuclear particles in a drop of water
as there are stars in the heavens; and who can guess what
may turn up inside a proton? We already have found within
the atom the power to destroy a city; any day now we may
develop the power to heal the world.
And all my life, I have been "drunk" with the intoxi-
cating wonders of good books. With the right book, the
world is yours; it waits by your bedside, at your convenience.
You can watch the whole pageant of history. You can enter
into and share the experiences of the greatest minds that have
ever lived on earth. You can, in the words of Tennyson,
"dip into the future, far as human eye can see." You can
climb to the top of Mount Everest; now for the first time
you can go down a mile into the bottom of the sea; you can
102 THE CUP OF FURY
visit climes hot and cold without discomfort; you can go
among strange people and marvel at their ways of survival;
you can hunt wild beasts or catch great fish; you can fly
to the farthest galaxies and penetrate the infinite minuteness
of the atomic nucleus; you can go inside your own body;
you can go to Heaven with the saints and to Hell with Dante.
In a world like this, one does not commit suicide "sim-
ply because he could no longer drink enough to give him
Early in 1928 I completed Boston, a novel which had
the Sacco-Venzetti case as its major theme. The publishers
were going to great expense and labor for it; and one custom
of the time was to give a grand party and invite the critics
to come and meet the author.
Craig and I made the trip to New York. "Can't you
make him get a new suit for the occasion?" begged the pub-
lishers. And so Craig invited me for a walk (most unusual
in and of itself!) and lured me into a store. She persuaded
me to buy a black suit, since this is what her father, Judge
Kimbrough, had always worn. Very dignified it was — and
twenty-eight years later I still have it in the closet, in case
I should ever wish to be dignified again.
The party was held in the ballroom of the Savoy-Plaza
Hotel. Tables against one wall, covered with all sorts of
delicacies; fifty or sixty literary lights; all the guests gracious
104 THE CUP OF FURY
and smiling; music, and even some dancing. I led the grand
march with Mrs. George Sylvester Vierick — she in a cloth-
of-gold costume, I in my dignified black suit.
All the critics complimented me on Boston, and went
away and forgot it in a few weeks. A new book in New York
is like water poured on a hot stove; it makes a loud noise,
but is soon gone.
While we were in New York, however, we took two new
friends into our lives, Bill and Helen Woodward. William
E. Woodward is best remembered as the author of two splen-
did biographies, one of George Washington and the other of
General Grant. When we met him, his bestseller was Bunk,
a book I greatly admired. A dinner party was planned at
Craig and I went to the apartment hotel where the
Woodwards lived, and travelled through a hallway to a door
which stood open. A large Southern gentleman of the old
school was standing there, erect and smiling. When we came
up to him, he opened his arms wide and took us both into an
embrace of hospitality. We, who are of medium size, were
dwarfed by his stature; and Helen, the tiny woman who was
his wife, seemed to be a fragile figurine at his side. Helen's
smile was bright and sweet, and we felt immediately that
we had escaped from a tornado in the streets to a haven of
peace and warmth.
Bill Woodward's career in letters was a unique one.
Until the age of fifty, he was an important figure in the finan-
cial world — senior vice-president of the Industrial Finance
Corporation of New York, parent organization of the Morris
Plan Banks. Helen Richardson Dreiser, who worked as Bill's
secretary at one time, tells in My Life with Dreiser how Mr.
Woodward paused, one day, while dictating a letter or
memorandum to her. He gazed out of the window and said:
THE CUP OF FURY IO5
"When I am fifty, I shall chuck this financial game com-
pletely ... I shall write . . . when I am fifty."
Surrounded always by fine books and stimulating people,
Bill Woodward became a beloved figure in the literary world.
His friendships were legion; and at his home we met a fas-
cinating author-traveller, William Seabrook.
I had heard of him long ago, back in Greenwich Vil-
lage; he had gone to live among the desert Arabs for a year
or two, and had written a book about it. Then he lived among
the natives in Haiti, and learned about voodoo. Then among
cannibals in Africa. And out of each experience had come
a book. He was delightful company, and offered to journey
out to California and live near us — perhaps so that he could
write still another book of "amazing experiences!"
But I cannot be light-hearted about the place where
Seabrook did go some years later. He went to Bloomingdale,
an insane asylum up the Hudson River. And he tells about
it in an extraordinary book called Asylum.
"I had asked for it," he writes in the preface. "I mean,
I had asked for it literally, though I hadn't specified any par-
ticular sort of place. I had been begging, pleading, demand-
ing toward the last, to be locked up . . . shut up . . . chained
up . . . anything . . . and had begun to curse and blame my
dearest friends for what seemed to me their failure to realize
how desperately, how stupidily, I needed to be shut up where
I couldn't get out and where I couldn't get my hands on a
bottle. I had become a confirmed, habitual drunkard, with-
out any of the stock alibis, or excuses."
He was well treated in this place, and after seven months
he came out, to all appearances completely cured. But as you
read his book, you wonder if he is going to stay cured. He
writes: "God forbid that any of this record be or become a
temperance lecture. I still think whiskey is a grand thing.
Io6 THE CUP OF FURY
I still believe that no man has ever become a victim of whiskey
— but only of some weakness within himself."
We find him rationalizing, just as Jack London did in
John Barleycorn. Bill Seabrook tells us that it is all right to
drink because you want to, and that the danger only begins
when you drink because you have to.
Then you read the unhappy sequel in his autobiography,
No Hiding Place, published seven years after Asylum. Near
the end of the book you find these sentences: "I was miser-
able, made Marjorie (his wife) miserable, and before I knew
it, I was drinking again in the mornings when I didn't want
to drink, not for the pleasure but in the desperate false hope
that I might write a page or two that wasn't wooden, and
presently because I no longer dared to face the typewriter.
Sometimes I'd go to bed sodden at dark, awaken before Mar-
jorie in the still pitch-black darkness before dawn, stumble
up to the barn without breakfast, and be sodden again by
sunrise." And on the next page we find him shouting at
himself in the mirror: "He's a drunkard. What do drunkards
do? They . . . drink . . . themselves . . . to . . . death!"
And so William Seabrook came to realize that it is not
"all right to drink because you want to." Yet this is appar-
ently an immensely difficult concept for intelligent, moderate,
occasional drinkers to appreciate; and their annoyance at
warnings and preachments of the sort I have sometimes been
wont to give is enormous. I "spoil their fun."
When Bill and Helen Woodward came to visit us in
Pasadena, for example, we took them to dine at one of the
old hotels which were becoming mementos of the grandeur
that had existed in this winter home of millionaires. I ordered
grape juice. Bill studied the menu and ordered apple juice.
Then his voice rose querulously as he said: "All of this misery
because of Upton! It might have been champagne!" He
THE CUP OF FURY IO7
jumped up from the table and strode from the dining room.
A few minutes later he returned. "I'll tell you what's the
matter with you, Upton," he said, sternly. "You live in this
God-forsaken town where there's nothing but churches on
the street corners." He grumbled still more about our town
throughout dinner; and when we were saying goodnight, he
announced, "I won't be seeing you tomorrow, Upton. Dreiser
lives in Hollywood and I'm going to see him"
Thus, at times, I have nettled the feelings of friends.
It has always been a difficult choice to make: Is one going to
lose friendships because he inveighs against drink? Or must
he run the risk of losing his friends to drink!
My answer has been to speak frankly at all times. It is
a habit of many years ... it is yet another crusade.
At the end of 1929 there was a dreadful collapse in the
stock market. The average man, who did not gamble in
stocks, paid little attention to it; but it turned out that all
industry was dependent upon speculation, and the depression
spread from Wall Street to the entire country. Thousands
of factories shut down, banks failed, farmers lost their farms
on mortgages, and unemployment spread like a plague. There
were among them many from the highly-educated classes —
lawyers, doctors, engineers, writers, and so on. Six hundred
lawyers were dropped from the Los Angeles Bar Association
because they could not pay their annual dues of seven dollars
and a half. The newspapers kept telling us that business
would soon pick up, but it didn't; the months stretched into
years — four years — and in California, with a population of
seven million, one in seven was without work; many were
108 THE CUP OF FURY
A chairman of the County Central Committee of the
Democratic Party came to me with a proposition: "Enroll
as a Democrat and announce yourself as a candidate for the
nomination for Governor. The people know your books and
trust you; tell them exactly what you will do to deal with
this depression, and you will sweep the state."
To run for office was the last thing in the world I
wanted. But I recalled that my great-grandfather, Com-
modore Arthur Sinclair, had been one of the founders of
the Democratic Party. It was my birthright; maybe I should
I got to thinking about the problem; what would I do?
A life-long "co-opper," I became fascinated by the idea.
I had been reading and thinking about "production for use"
for three decades. I worked out in my mind a complete sched-
ule: a state-supported body to purchase or rent land and
establish production of food for the use of the producers,
the hungry unemployed and their families; the same for fac-
tory production, and the same for the financing of both.
At that time Los Angeles County alone had 509,000
persons being supported on relief. At fifty cents per person
per day, that was a hundred million dollars a year — and all
of it pure loss to the taxpayers. On the other hand, the self-
help co-operatives were keeping 150,000 members alive with
aid from the state of only seventeen cents per member per
month. The economy of that required no argument. But it
was opposed by the "conservatives" for the same reason that
TVA is being opposed today; it was what many people con-
sider "Creeping Socialism."
The rest of my program included: a graduated income
tax, old age pensions, and a tax on idle land held for specu-
lation. I sat myself down and wrote a pamphlet entitled:
J, Governor of California: And How I Ended Poverty. The
THE CUP OF FURY IO^
slogan was to be "End Poverty in California," which spelled
EPIC. I went into full detail; I told exactly how I "did" it,
and it was so convincing that I almost felt I had already
When I showed the manuscript to those who wanted to
turn me into a politician, it was like throwing gasoline into
a fire. They laid siege to me, and would not take "No" for
my answer. My dear wife was horrified; here was another
Crusade. She had just got back a little of her health — and
now she was going to lose it all again! I hesitated on the
brink, while the pamphlet was put into type. I registered as
a Democrat, thinking I could do it quietly; but this was
foolish, of course. The newspapers got hold of it. Then I
wanted to back out; it would have been funny if it hadn't
been so tragic — my wife wouldn't let me back out! It was a
matter of honor. She would die before she would let me
change my mind after I had once committed myself.
Well, we were in for it; and it was like being caught up
in a whirlwind and swept out over a vast uncharted sea. My
elderly secretary lived in a small cottage, and I rented the
living room from her; people poured into it, and it became the
first EPIC headquarters. Presently EPIC rented the whole
cottage, and then it moved to a larger one, until at the end
it had a building with thirty-two rooms. I printed 20,000
copies of my pamphlet, and they were gone in a couple of
weeks; I printed some more, and then turned the plates over
to headquarters. The campaign was financed by the sale of
that and three other EPIC pamphlets I wrote — 435,000 books
at a quarter a copy; also from the collections taken up at my
mass meetings all over the state. We had no money at the
start, and we never received a dollar from the Democratic
Party funds. Under state law, school auditoriums may be
used free for political meetings at night, and we made use
IIO THE CUP OF FURY
of that privilege. For almost a year I went up and down
the state, and the meetings grew bigger and bigger.
The primary campaign lasted ten months — that is, so
far as EPIC was concerned. Seven other Democratic candi-
dates entered the list; the leading one, favored by the regular 1
Democratic machine, was the political journalist George Creel.
When I spoke in the Civic Auditorium in Oakland, I was
told that he had spoken there the previous night, and had dis-
cussed me, saying, "Sinclair has the brains of a pigeon." I
repeated this to the great throng, and replied: "I don't know
much about the anatomy of pigeons, and I doubt if Creel
does either; but this I do know, that nobody ever saw ten
million pigeons starving to death when the ground was cov-
ered with corn and the trees were full of cherries."
The primary election was held on August 28, and my
vote was 436,000; Creel's was 228,000, and the rest trailed;
my vote was a majority over all the other seven put together.
I was the Democratic Party's candidate for Governor, and
the legally chosen head of the party. It was the biggest vote
ever cast in a California primary election.
It was a furious campaign; people took sides, and families
were split up. A lady of one of the oldest families of Cali-
fornia wrote to my wife that in one drawing room she had
seen enraged people throwing sofa pillows at one another —
which, I suppose, is at least more elegant than throwing
brickbats. A business man of Beverly Hills told me about the
experience of his daughter, a high-school girl. She had been
invited to the home of a schoolmate, and there, at the dinner
table, the head of the house denounced Upton Sinclair. The
guest remarked, "I heard him speak, and I thought what he
said was sensible." The answer was, "Nobody can talk like
that in my house. Get up and get out!" And he meant it;
he drove her out!
THE CUP OF FURY III
EPIC was completely a ground-roots movement, sudden
and spontaneous. It had no help from the regular Demo-
cratic machine, or from any other machine or "big interest."
It was amateurish and chaotic, learning from its own mis-
takes when it learned at all. I would be grabbed up at short
notice, or with none at all, and driven away to a mass meet-
ing about which nobody had remembered to notify me. I
called myself a "speech-making machine," one that was bun-
dled into a car, then carried onto a platform — where some-
body pressed a button to make it talk. I would be driven
by a couple of college boys in my own worn-out car. Or a
wealthy playboy would take me in his imported sports car,
enjoying the excitement without really knowing why. Craig
has never forgotten how, at a meeting in San Diego, I was
so exhausted that I wavered, and two men came and held
me up while I spoke. And then they carried me out on burly
shoulders to address an overflow meeting in the park adjoin-
ing the auditorium.
"You boys are killing him!" she pleaded once; and the
answer of one was, "Well, he has to die sometime." She
came back at this young man by declaring: "I'll see that
when he does, he doesn't die for you!" From then on she set
herself and others to watch him, and it wasn't long before she
knew where his attitude had come from — Moscow. That is
an aspect of the campaign which must not be left out of the
story. At the outset, the Communists poured ridicule upon
EPIC; they would print leaflets denouncing it, and scatter
them from the gallery over the heads of the audience; when
that happened, I would call for one of the leaflets and read it
from the platform and answer it. They called EPIC "one more
rotten egg from the Blue Buzzard's nest." (It was the period
of the New Deal's effort to find work for the unemployed,
and there was a symbol known as "the Blue Eagle.") But
112 THE CUP OF FURY
when the Communists saw that EPIC was becoming a "band-
wagon", they quit ridiculing it and took to infiltrating; they
would come to work in the headquarters, and in all the clubs
— and they would even start clubs of their own!
I was not elected. I got 879,000 votes, but my Repub-
lican opponent received a little over a million.
On Election Night we had several close friends with us,
listening to the returns over the radio. Everyone was tense;
and when it became evident that I was running behind, our
friends were decorously silent. Then, over the radio, some
political authority declared that the outcome was certain;
"Sinclair has lost." Craig's knees gave way suddenly and she
sank to the floor, weeping and laughing at the same time,
and crying: "Oh, thank God! thank God! thank God!"
Lewis Browne, who was one of our dear friends in California,
came to her and said: "We understand, Craig. We all hoped
he would lose." She had worked hard for victory as a matter
of duty. But in her heart she did not want me to win. They
all believed victory would mean death by overwork or assas-
, Indeed, shortly after the campaign I learned from unas-
sailable sources that a Beverly Hills businessman had made
up his mind to see to it personally that I never governed
California. He arranged all his affairs, made his will, and
told his family what he was going to do. He was going to
be present at the radio station where I was scheduled to speak
if I won the election; and there he was going to shoot me!
My own point of view on Election Night was this: I
could say with satisfaction that I had helped to educate the
people of California, as well as many across the nation, to
the power of the ballot. I had also taught them the need
for taking an active part in politics, if they wanted to win
next time. The magazine Unity commented at the time:
THE CUP OF FURY II3
"What Sinclair did in one year was to shake the state with
an earthquake mightier than that which toppled the towers
of San Francisco a generation ago . . . The methods used in
defeating Sinclair were perhaps unprecedented in terms of
sheer wickedness and villainy. Every crime but murder was
shamelessly resorted to. The legions of hell were let loose on
Regrettably, I was defeated by those whom we like to
consider the leaders of the "good people" in the American
community — prominent businessmen, editors and columnists
of major newspapers, the well-to-do and respectable and con-
Yet the despair of the Depression could not be wiped
away by promises and campaigns; and so during those long
years of economic chaos, thousands of Americans turned to
new ideologies in their quest for security.
Some became Communists. In a lifetime of political and
economic activity, I have come to know Communists and
Communism. I have experienced the insidiousness of their
methods; I have lost friends to their fold; and I have seen
how they use liquor in their unceasing war against freedom.
I learned to my distress recently that the Reds are
using novels I wrote thirty, forty and fifty years ago in their
present propaganda campaigns in Europe and Asia. They
quote my indictments of an earlier time's inequities, and pass
the material off labeled "a picture of life in the United States
today." Thus it is that I write as often as possible for foreign
publications, or send my messages abroad on the Voice of
Not long ago I was asked to address a message to three
million readers of Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese periodical.
The editors asked me to predict the possibilities of world
peace; and in one paragraph of my answer, I sketched the
history of dismay and disillusion with which American liberals
have watched the growth of world Communism:
The problem which confronts us all is that of
an organized system of terrorism and dictatorship
THE CUP OF FURY II J
which calls itself 'democratic/ and uses the phrases
of self-government to fool the oppressed peoples of
the earth . . .
When the Russian Tsardom was overthrown
thirty-eight years ago, I rejoiced, as did all liberal-
minded persons. When the Bolsheviks overthrew
the Socialist government and made a deal with the
generals of the German Kaiser, I was saddened.
But I hoped for the best . . .
I did not know then that Lenin had set down
in his writings that it would be necessary for the
Bolsheviks to lie and deceive in order to get their
way. He wrote that, and he did that, and his
successors are doing it on a world-wide scale
today. . . .
Those fanatical men of violence, the Commu-
nists, want to put all true democrats into slave-
labor camps, and make the rest of the people into
slave laborers at home. They have done that in
eleven countries of Europe now behind the Iron
Curtain, and with their Red Chinese allies they
have an elaborate and cold-blooded program to do
it over the rest of the world.
So that I can show you how world Communism used
talented American writers in its never-ending war against
democracy, I will briefly tell you the story of a motion-
picture film titled Thunder Over Mexico,
Sergei Eisenstein was Soviet Russia's leading motion-
picture director. His relations with the regime became
strained, and in 1930 he journeyed to Hollywood — only to
be coolly received by America's film industry as well. In
order to cover up his failure he conceived the idea of going
into Mexico and making a travelog of the primitive Indians.
Il6 THE CUP OF FURY
He sent someone to ask me to assist in raising twenty-five
thousand dollars for that purpose; and I, thinking to help
a great artist — which he was — persuaded some friends to put
up the money. Eisenstein signed a contract to make a strictly
non-political picture for this sum, and to finish it in three or
four months. He went and stayed a year, extracting more
money from us by the threat that if we didn't send it there
would be no picture. Later on we found out why he had
been stalling; he was trying to get a contract to make his
next picture in the Argentine, in Japan, in India — any place
in the world, in fact, in order to keep from having to go
back to the Soviet Union.
In the end we learned that no promise he made had any
meaning, and so we cut off the funds. We tried to work out
an arrangement with the Soviet Government, but they, too,
broke every promise they made, and we soon realized that
their word meant nothing. So we arranged to have the pic-
ture cut in Hollywood; and instantly all the fury of Com-
munist propaganda was turned against us. Not merely in the
United States, but all over the world, grotesque falsehoods
about the project were spread in newspapers and periodicals
A veritable siege was laid upon us. There came authors,
journalists, artists, actors, every kind of person who could
find any excuse for taking an interest in the film. Some of
them were Communist agents; other were fellow- travelers;
and still others were dupes, men and women truly interested
in cinematic art. They all wanted to see the uncut film; they
all praised it extravagantly; and then they had all said the
same thing — that it would be a "crime against art" to have
that picture cut by anyone but "the great master who had
conceived and created it." The fact that he had taken the
money of both friends and strangers, the fact that my wife
THE CUP OF FURY 11 J
and I had mortgaged our home and had gone head-over-heels
into debt to save the picture — all this meant nothing. We
must "give it to the Soviet Union," knowing full well that
we would never see a foot of it again. End of the story: the
picture cost ninety thousand dollars and earned about thirty
Among those who came to plead, cajole or threaten were
two of America's immortal writers — Sherwood Anderson and
In the middle twenties I had read a new novel by an
unknown writer. It was called Windy McPherson's Son, and
it gave me a particular thrill because it showed real knowledge
of poverty, and true tenderness for the poor. In those days
our successful writers seldom condescended to be aware of
poverty. So I wrote a letter to Sherwood Anderson, con-
gratulating him— and, as usual, trying to bring him to my
social point of view. He answered on the letterhead of an
advertising firm in Chicago, and we developed a corre-
spondence. He said:
"To me there is no answer for the terrible confusion of
life. I want to try and sympathize and to understand a little
of the twisted and maimed life that industrialism has brought
on us. But I can't solve things, Sinclair. I can't do it. Man,
I don't know who is right and who wrong." And he added,
"Damn it, you have made me go on like a propagandist, you
should be ashamed of yourself."
There came a second novel, Marching Men, the story of
a labor leader who rouses the workers — and for what? To
march! Where shall they march? He doesn't know. What
shall they march for? He doesn't know that. What does
their marching symbolize? Nobody knows; but march and
keep on marching — "Out of Nowhere into Nothing," to
quote the title of a Sherwood Anderson short story.
Il8 THE CUP OF FURY
Even in childhood, Anderson wanted to create beauty —
yet so severe was his poverty that once his only food was a
mound of cabbages which rowdies had thrown at his mother's
door at night. Then he had to go out into the world of
hustle and graft to fight for a living; he became manager
of a paint factory, without the least interest in any kind of
paint. And all the while the suppressed artist in him sobbed
and suffered, lived its own subconscious life, and occasionally
surged up to the surface — driving the respectable paint-
factory manager to actions which his stenographer and office
force considered insane. It drove him to drop the paint job,
suddenly, abruptly, right in the middle of dictating a letter;
it drove him to a nervous breakdown, and the life of a wan-
derer; it drove him to throw up the advertising job in Chi-
cago which he had when he first wrote to me. Finally, it
helped make him a man of genius.
Sherwood Anderson was forty before his first novel was
published. Once critical success came, however, he wrote
book after book. And each of them, I found, had his own
thwarted personality as its central theme. In Windy Mc-
P her son's Son he tells the artist's story; and then he tells it
again, with some variations, in Poor White. His painful frus-
trations are depicted in A Story Teller's Story; his childhood
is pictured in Tar. His own experiences with marriage are
the drive behind Many Marriages and Dark Laughter. His
frustrated personality and philosophy are bared in Notebook
— and even his short stories present one or another aspect of
a man in conflict with himself.
I was astonished when Sherwood Anderson came to
argue with me about the Eisenstein film. He was not a Party
member; his political theories were ephemeral. (At one point,
he edited two newspapers in Marion, Virginia — one was Dem-
ocratic, the other Republican!) But we ran the uncut ver-
THE CUP OF FURY 119
sion of the film for him, and like everybody else, he was
enraptured by its beautiful scenes. "Don't cut it," he said.
"Send it to Russia — they'll have Eisenstein cut it." We told
him of our grim experiences with the director. "What has
that got to do with his being a great artist?" Anderson asked.
"A great artist is above morality."
The argument continued over lunch some days later.
My memory is that he had brought a flask along, and sam-
pled some on the drive; by the time we were all assembled
at the luncheon table, Sherwood was "high."
His work deteriorated in his later years. In A Story
Teller's Story, he speaks of a "fluency in words that never
comes to me when I am writing, and it only comes to my lips
when I am slightly under the influence of strong drink."
Presently we find him talking about "morning coffee, con-
taining a touch of brandy." Just a touch!
Anderson died at sea, on a liner bound for Brazil. Ab-
dominal congestion and peritonitis were brought on when
he swallowed the toothpick in a cocktail-sausage at the "fare-
well party" given him in the ship's stateroom. Ben Hecht,
who drank wine with Anderson in New York's fashionable
Twenty-One the night before Anderson's departure, wrote a
newspaper column about their reunion. It was grimly pro-
phetic: Anderson, he said, seemed like a man leaving not a
country but life, like a wearied animal going off to an un-
familiar place to die.
Another writer who intervened in the matter of the
motion picture was Theodore Dreiser. I had met him as early
as 1908, when he was editor-in-chief of the Butterick pub-
lications, fashion magazines. His novel, Sister Carrie, had
been published and suppressed, and I had never seen it. Then
Jennie Gerhardt was published, and I knew we had a great
120 THE CUP OF FURY
Dreiser's life had been a hard one: he had come up from
the bottom, beginning in Chicago about the time of the
World's Fair, 1893. Edgar Lee Masters and Sherwood Ander-
son were there at the same time, all three grubbing for an
existence in a hateful environment. Dreiser wandered the
streets, a homeless, jobless, miserable youth. In A Book About
Myself he tells of reading newspaper columns by Eugene
Field, and he remarks: "This comment on local life here and
now, these transient bits on local street scenes, institutions,
characters, functions, all moved me as nothing hitherto had."
He was storing thousands of such details in his mind, pre-
paring to weave them into huge patterns.
He wanted to be a newspaper man, but didn't know
how to begin; he hung around a newspaper office like a poor
stray dog, until people got tired of kicking him out and
finally gave him something to write. Then he tells us, "Men,
as I was beginning to find — all of us — were small, irritable,
nasty in their struggle for existence." Such was the world in
which a "realist" formed his mind.
I remember him as a big silent fellow, a good listener.
I could not imagine why he wanted to be editor of such
uninteresting magazines; but later on, when I read The
"Genius", I saw that he had been watching the literary and
artistic world of New York, and had been shaping it in his
mind. Then when I read An American Tragedy I knew he
had put into it all his understanding of the hapless people
he had known in boyhood and youth. He was a graceless
and awkward writer, but he had a soul full of pity for the
miseries he had seen around him, and that made him one of
the great spirits of our time. I loved him for it, and went
all-out for An American Tragedy, My words were: "Theo-
dore Dreiser has given us one of the world's greatest novels."
When the Eisenstein affair was on the front pages,
THE CUP OF FURY 121
Dreiser wrote me a letter of strong protest about my refusal
to ship the film off to Moscow. My wife replied with a
detailed account of what had happened; and his reply was
yes, we had been imposed upon; and yes, we were entirely
in the right. But Dreiser was so much a tool of the Com-
munists that I feared they would soon talk him into reversing
his stand again.
He was a man with a violent temper. His wife relates
how he got into a dispute with his publisher, Horace Live-
right, over the division of the $90,000 paid for the film rights
of An American Tragedy, They were at lunch in a hotel
restaurant and Horace called Theodore a liar. Theodore threw
a cup of coffee into Liveright's face. On another occasion he
slapped Sinclair Lewis publicly when Lewis accused him of
having plagiarized material about Soviet Russia written by
Dorothy Thompson, the journalist who became Lewis's wife.
Both had been in Moscow at the same time, and apparently
both had used the same propaganda material issued by the
Helen Dreiser, who became his wife shortly before his
death, tells of an episode back in the days before the writing
of The American Tragedy, He telephoned that he needed
her, and she came in haste.
When I arrived at his studio I found him
lying on his day-bed apparently unconscious. I
was terrified. He lay there as if the outer shell or
personality had dropped from him . . .
He said he had been at a party at Carl Van
Vechten's and had been brought home . . . After
going around the corner to a drug store to obtain
something to sober him, I got him into his pajamas
with difficulty as he was completely paralyzed. He
then lapsed into a deep sleep . . .
122 THE CUP OF FURY
The next morning he awakened perfectly
normal. He was extremely surprised to see me
there, for he did not remember one thing about
calling me the night before, which I thought
strange. How did he remember the telephone
number in such a condition, I asked myself.
In the same book, Mrs. Dresier reports on her husband's
work habits in his last months: "In the morning while I was
preparing breakfast, he would bathe, shave, and then, im-
maculately dressed, walk into the kitchen and pour himself
a small drink before sitting down to the table."
He was a man who wandered about from one set of
ideas to another, not realizing their incongruity. Floyd Dell
reports, "When I saw him later he was somehow an anti-
Semitic Nazi and a Russified Communist at the same time."
In a letter to Mencken, for example, Dreiser complained of
Franklin D. Roosevelt's hostility toward Hitler and his sym-
pathy for the allied powers.
"I begin to suspect that Hitler is correct," he wrote.
"The president may be partly Jewish. His personal animosity
toward Hitler has already resulted in placing America in the
Allied Camp — strengthening Britain's attitude and injuring
Germany in the eyes of the world. The brass!"
A year later, Dreiser was announcing his support of
Earl Browder, Communist Party leader, for the Presidency
of the United States. Thus he went from extreme to extreme,
from position to position.
Dreiser was no reeling drunkard, no down-and-out rot-
gut drinker. My feeling is that his perceptions were some-
times blurred by drink, often confusing his noble heart. I
recall that he came to visit us one night, enough "under the
influence" to fall asleep in his chair while he was talking
THE CUP OF FURY 1 23
and when people were talking with him. At his request we
had asked a prominent medium, Arthur Ford, to demonstrate
some aspects of psychic research. During the demonstration,
Dreiser was asked to corroborate several details about an old
newspaper friend. He seemed confused, unable to recollect
important events of his past life. Helen Dreiser, who had
been at our house with him, called the next day; she apol-
ogized for his "condition."
Dreiser would have said that he drank socially, with his
friends. The sad fact is, however, that the friends who joined
him in this "social tippling" as he grew older were often Com-
munists, there to get his support and use his prestige for the
Party's selfish ends. A group of sympathizers prepared a
manifesto for him, and he signed it. It was published in the
Daily Worker, and gave heart to Communists everywhere.
They swarmed around him; they extracted more quotes from
him, adding to the many articles he had prepared at their
behest. And then, a few months later, Dreiser died. It was,
truly, an American tragedy.
The Communists use liquor as a sort of Geiger-counter,
probing for the weaknesses of men and women. They have
used it to gain recruits; they have used it to steal a nation's
most guarded secrets.
Mary McCarthy, the brilliant writer of short stories, re-
cently told in Reporter magazine how in her youth she flitted
about on the outskirts of the Communist movement, attend-
ing their dances and drinking parties. Everybody became
extremely drunk, and "the atmosphere was horribly sordid."
When the Communist regime was launched in Russia,
there were some sincere if mistaken idealists among the "old
Bolsheviks" — men and women who really believed in free-
dom, who were actually convinced that they were uplifting
124 THE cup OF FURY
humanity. But thinkers of this sort went down, one after
another, in one blood purge after another. They were exter-
minated as if they had been the most dangerous of snakes.
One of the early forms their idealism took was the pro-
hibition of alcoholic liquor. But that hope died with all the
others. The brutal men who came out on top in Russia knew
that a drunken people would be easier to hold in subjection
than a sober people.
Today the Soviet Union has repudiated all the virtues of
the old order and adapted only its evils. The production of
liquor is a State monopoly; and the men who control that
monopoly live in luxury. Ninety percent of the money paid
for every quart of liquor goes directly to the State. Cor-
respondents come home from Russia and report that there are
no shoes available in the stores, no clothing, only the basic
foodstuffs — and liquor. There's always plenty of liquor.
In France, it was the Communists who were most voci-
ferous in their campaign of hate, ridicule and contempt when
Pierre Mendes-France began his historic attempt to curb alco-
holism in his country. Again they acted in the knowledge
that a wine-sodden nation, sick in mind and body, is easy
And look at the drinking "traditions" of France the
Communists there so righteously defended! The nation's con-
sumption of wine in 1954 was six billion bottles — five times
as much as Italy, the world's second in wine-consumption.
Home distilling is legal in France, with 3,250,000 individuals
licensed to produce alcohol from grapes, apples, prunes, pears,
sugar beets, and even artichokes. There is one drink shop for
every ninety inhabitants. In Germany the ratio is one to 246
people; in Norway, it's one to every three thousand. As a
result, there are twenty- two alcoholics to each one thousand
inhabitants in France. And at least partially as a result of
THE CUP OF FURY 1 25
that fact, I believe, France has the sickest government in the
free world, including in its Assembly more Communists than
any other free nation of the world.
Liquor works for the Communists in New York and
Paris and in Moscow. It works overtime — it gave them the
I take this story from World magazine for January,
On August 12, 1953, Dr. Bruno Pontecorvo,
an Italian- born physicist, exploded a thermo-
nuclear device northeast of the town of Yarkand
in Soviet-controlled Sinkiang. At least in prin-
ciple, this feat gave Russia equality in the atomic
The story then introduces a rising young English diplo-
mat named Donald Maclean. I quote:
Assigned to the Egyptian capital as Counselor
of Embassy, Maclean had attained greater success
than most career diplomats of thirty-five even
hope for. And yet he detested his job. The cor-
rupt and decadent society of Egypt enraged and
depressed him; he began to drink heavily. At odds
with himself and the world, he developed a split
personality and, under the influence of alcohol,
formed homosexual attachments. Melinda consid-
ered a divorce but was deterred by the fear of
Maclean's emotions reached a violent climax
at a house-boat party on the Nile. In a drunken
outburst, he wrested a rifle from a guard and
menaced the twenty guests. A courageous friend
subdued him. The Foreign Office immediately re-
called him to London, gave him six months' sick
1 26 THE CUP OF FURY
leave and ordered him to take psychiatric treat-
ment. Only his outstanding record saved him from
Those six months of enforced leave, from May
to November 1950, were crucial in the life of Don-
ald Maclean. He was approached by Soviet agents
who, after the arrest of Klaus Fuchs, were badly
in need of a replacement. Maclean proved amen-
able. He was told that "Red China" would build
golden bridges for the right atomic scientist. Mac-
lean suggested Pontecorvo. Another Soviet contact
in the Foreign Office and a friend of Maclean,
Guy Burgess, arranged the details. On July 25,
Pontecorvo and his family left England for an
extended vacation on the Continent. On Septem-
ber 2, after flying from Stockholm to Helsinki,
Finland, on the edge of the Iron Curtain, the Pon-
In November, on the recommendation of his
psychiatrist, Donald Maclean was "reintegrated"
into the Foreign Service and made head of the
American Division, proof that his loyalty was un-
questioned at that time. In health and manner he
seemed much improved. Melinda bought a house
in Kent with $20,000 she had inherited. Donald,
now a happy family man, was looking forward to
the birth of a third child. The marriage appeared
Yet slowly the clouds were gathering over his
head. His conscience bothered him; he reverted
to drink. He began to make strange, brooding
remarks about "Communists agents." When Bur-
gess, who in the meantime had been sent to Wash-
THE CUP OF FURY llj
ington, was recalled for personal misconduct, So-
viet operatives warned both men that their time
was running out. On May 2$, 195 1 — Donald's
birthday — Burgess received a telephone call at 5:30
p.m. That evening they drove to Southampton and
crossed the Channel aboard the ferry Falaise.
Neither one was seen for almost five years. And then in
February of 1956, Burgess and Maclean were put on display
at a press conference. The meeting was held in the Kremlin.
Our home in California has been a waystop for poets
and politicians, writers and actors, philosophers and journal-
ists. Here we've been visited by old friends on their way to
an assignment in Hollywood or a vacation in the sun. Years
later, on occasion, the sons or daughters of these friends have
themselves come to bring us news and anecdotes and reports
of their family's fortunes. This is one of the rewards of a
long life, and one of the advantages of living near a "cross-
roads of the world."
It is a joy to play host to young people bursting and
alive with talent. Yet we remember moments when the
pleasure was mixed with pain, when we could see youthful
ability and idealism confused and confounded by compulsive
Such was the story of Klaus Mann, son of the genius
universally considered to have been the greatest novelist of
THE CUP OF FURY I2£
our time. Klaus and Erika, his sister, knew many cities and
towns of their own continent. Now they were journeying
to the United States, on their way to see the rest of the world.
I admired and had corresponded with Thomas Mann, their
father; now I was going to meet two of his children.
Our conversations in Pasadena were pleasant, and when
the young travellers went off they wrote pleasant things
about me, which does not always happen. From that time
on I exchanged letters with Klaus, sent him some of my books,
and received his in return.
In 1942, Klaus published his autobiography The Turning
Point, In it he was frank, in a quiet and decent way, and
his words help us understand those Europeans who grew up
with a world falling to pieces about them. He explains the
Jazz Age in one explicit sentence: "We could hardly deviate
from any ethical norm, for the cogent reason that there was
He tells us that he and his sister were known to the
neighbors as "those terrible Mann children." Their experi-
ments in living were often wild and dangerous, and the two
did not always get along with their distinguished father.
Preparing to visit the United States, Klaus talked with
Sinclair Lewis, then in Europe. Hal's advice was, "Have a
hell of a time." And Klaus notes concerning Hal that he was
"in the habit of emptying whiskey glasses." In Greenwich
Village they were shown about by Horace Liveright, and here
the two young visitors could observe "a plentitude of attrac-
tive girls, and all of them seemed rather fond of gin." They
met Henry Louis Mencken, champion of the American
saloon, and Henry's contribution to the education of Erika
and Klaus was this: "I know hundreds, perhaps thousands of
Americans. All of them drink liquor . . . Well, let's open
another bottle. Vrostl"
130 THE CUP OF FURY
And then they journeyed out to Hollywood, and there
met Emil Jannings, the actor, making a thousand dollars a
day; and Greta Gar bo, coming in and announcing, "I
am so terribly tired. May I have a whiskey?" In California
the young visitors were almost killed in a car accident, and
Klaus's remark following the experience was, "We had quite
a few drinks — champagne, beer, and Scotch. The brakes of
the age-old Ford hardly worked."
Then we find them in Paris with Jean Cocteau. What
he contributes to their philosophy is this: "Liquor provokes
paroxysms of folly; opium produces paroxysms of wisdom."
And next Klaus is in Morocco, experimenting with
hashish. He says at this point: "I have lost more friends
through suicide (including the less direct patterns of self-
destruction) than through diseases, crimes or accidents." In-
deed, there is a wave of suicides by the children of famous
writers — a daughter of Schnitzler and a son of Von Hoff-
mansthal. Klaus' brother Rickey puts a bullet through his
heart. And then came Hitler, yet "everybody kept drinking
Not long after Hitler met his end, Klaus returned to
California to visit his parents; they were then living near
Santa Monica. I read in the papers that young Mann had
attempted to take his own life, and I wrote him a letter of
sympathy and encouragement. In reply, Klaus asked to see
me. I cannot recall what stood in the way of an immediate
meeting — probably the correction of printer's proofs of a
new novel. We put the meeting off, and then Klaus went
back to Europe. There he very shortly died. The New York
Times reported it as "apparent suicide."
THE CUP OF FURY 131
Dr. Erich Fromm, a brilliant contemporary psychiatrist,
notes in his book The Sane Society the fact that "suicide and
alcoholism figures largely coincide." This is not to say that
one is always a concomitant of the other; rather, Dr. Fromm
questions whether they may not both be "pathological ways
of escape from boredom" — the boredom of a society which
satisfies our material needs, but little else.
Such a society, I have often felt, exists in Hollywood's
movie colony, where life is artificially portrayed and arti-
ficially lived. Competition is fierce, the strains of the pace
are continual, and the atmosphere is a strange mixture of
adulation, sham, exhibitionism, and intrigue.
In Pasadena we live less than an hour's drive from sev-
eral major studios, and I have seen a great deal of "the indus-
try." Once I wrote a novel which had nothing to do with
labor, management or world politics, and Metro-Goldwyn-
Mayer bought it for twenty thousand dollars and assigned
their top producer, Irving Thalberg, to film it. The Wet
Parade was its title, and Prohibition was its theme. This was
the period when everybody was either a "dry" or a "wet"; my
approach to the question was to write a story based on my
experiences in the Weisiger house of my childhood.
Thalberg's intention was to hold the balance even be-
tween the drys and the wets, and this he succeeded in doing.
Robert Young, then beginning his long career, played the
juvenile role; Walter Huston portrayed the drunken father;
Lewis Stone was featured in it; and Jimmy Durante acted
the part of a Prohibition agent with his customary verve. I
had never seen this gifted comedian before, and found him
But when it came to other stories for MGM's cameras,
Thalberg and I could not agree; even all these years later,
I still cannot shift my focus from the pressing problems of
132 THE CUP OF FURY
this world to the lighter demands of the screen. And so I
have been for the most part an observer of Hollywood life;
a deeply interested, emotionally-involved observer, however,
for some of the stories I have seen unfold in the movie colony
have had dear friends playing tragic roles.
Horace Liveright was one of my friends in the world
of letters who came to Hollywood to make pictures. He had
been my publisher in New York, and I knew him as one of
the kindest of men, equally generous and helpful to young
writers and to those who had met with success. He was
universally loved; his presence at a dinner table meant wit
and erudition and cheer. In Hollywood, however, it also
meant too much whiskey.
Here is how Ben Hecht tells Horace's story in his auto-
biography, A Child of the Century:
Though he seemed to do nothing but pursue
women and drink himself into nightly comas,
Liveright was actually a hard worker and a bril-
liant one. He published scores of fine books and
produced a number of successful plays. He loaned
courage and money to many fumbling talents. He
fought ably against censorship and was one of the
chief forces that freed the literature of the Re-
public from the strangle hold of its old maids. He
launched the Modern Library — the first introduc-
tion to the larger public of the world's fine writing.
There was in New York no more popular and ex-
citing figure than Liveright. Beauty, success and
admiration attended him like a faithful retinue,
and hundreds of hangers-on were proud to boast of
I was in Hollywood some ten years later when
THE CUP OF FURY 133
Beatrice Kaufman, who had once worked as a
reader in the Liveright firm, telephoned with the
news that Horace was dead. He had died (in
New York) broke and full of debts.
"I wonder if you could come to his funeral,"
Beatrice said. "I've been on the phone all day.
So far I've only gotten six people to agree to
I was unable to leave Hollywood. On a
drizzly day, Beatrice Kaufman and five other
New Yorkers accompanied the forgotten pauper,
Horace Liveright, to his grave.
Now let me finish the story for you. I was in New
York City at that time, and was asked to speak at the fu-
neral. I was to Horace's virtues very kind, and to his faults
a little blind, and I hoped that at least I was bringing some
comfort to his sorrowing old mother. Theodore Dreiser was
another of the small band at the burial; and afterwards, we
walked down Lexington Avenue together, recalling both the
melancholy and the marvelous moments of Liveright's life.
Dreiser and Horace had once quarreled bitterly, but all that
was forgiven and forgotten. Now I told Dreiser of the dinner
parties I had attended with Horace in Hollywood — how he
grew drunker and drunker with every course, and we won-
dered at the way in which, step by step, he had come to this
Hollywood's drinking habits have begun to get into
books. Not books like this one, but rather in the memoirs
of rollicking men who on occasion find a whiskey-filled eve-
ning delightful fun. One such work is Gene Fowler's Minutes
of the Last Meeting, which details the drinking bouts of
Sadakichi Hartmann, John Barrymore, and others. Fowler
134 THE CUP OF FURY
devotes another volume only to Barrymore — certainly one of
the finest actors of our time, but without doubt the industry's
most maniacal drunkard. His estimate was that in forty
years he consumed 640 barrels of hard liquor.
Barrymore earned $375,000 in one year, yet died a bank-
rupt. Before his death, both Gene Fowler and Ben Hecht
attempted to raise funds for the payment of their friend's
ever-mounting medical expenses. Yet not one producer, not
one director, not one millionaire movie mogul came forward
with so much as a dollar for this fallen prince. I have never
read a more terrifying picture of the last days of an alcoholic
than appears in thirteen appalling pages about Barrymore in
A Child of the Century.
Douglas Fairbanks was another screen idol whose life
ended in tragedy. As much as did any boy in the audience,
I as an adult enjoyed watching his fabulous athletic stunts
on the screen. And when I met him "in person," as motion
picture fans put it, I found him good company. Doug's head-
quarters was the United Artists studio on Santa Monica
Boulevard, and I used to drop in there and watch him work.
Once, during a break between scenes, I told him the
story of The Millennium, which I had first written as a play
and then made into a novel. It was a satiric piece about what
the world would be like in another hundred years if we went
on as we were headed. In it I let my fancies roam, and I
predicted radio broadcasting complete, for example, even
before the wireless was discovered. In it I had an airplane
flying around the world in twenty-four hours. Now, as I
write, jets cross the continent in hours.
Doug expressed delight at the ideas in The Millennium,
and we began sketching outlines for a picture. But I soon
discovered that he was interested only in the gadgets; the
satire which I had made the heart of my story was entirely
THE CUP OF FURY 135
over his head. He was still a little boy who had made the
mistake of growing up.
Life had to be lived on his terms, or life wasn't worth
living. And his terms called for kings and queens; it de-
manded action and adventure. He enjoyed telling stories
about the potentates with whom he associated. Gossip about
John Doe out on a binge meant nothing to Doug, but amus-
ing stories about the dissipations of King Alfonso of Spain
he could tell and elaborate with the utmost pleasure. He had
reaped colossal success in the world of tangible things — five
million dollars net from a single picture, Robin Hood, He
was perfectly fitted to a world which he had partially created
for himself, and which had partially been created for him by
press agentry, adulation, and the writers of his swashbuckling
In sum, he couldn't bear to see himself as anything but
the all-conquering hero who escaped from a thousand enemies
and then overcame them in the final scene. Doug had mar-
ried America's sweetheart, and the pair reigned as the crowned
heads of the industry. All their world was a stage, and all
the players had to fit particular roles: the clown had to laugh,
the queen had to be gracious, the hero had to be debonair.
But this isn't the way the world works. One does not
remain America's leading juvenile forever; cocktails may help
one regain the feeling, but not the fact. Lacking inner re-
sources, he was lonely wherever he went. He would turn up
somewhere at the ends of the earth after bolting away from
Hollywood without notice. He took to chasing other
women; he spent a hundred thousand dollars on a single brief
yacht cruise. He couldn't bear the fact that his son had
become an actor and made a success in his name. He couldn't
even endure the fact that his son grew up to be a taller man
I $6 THE CUP OF FURY
His restless searching could find no happiness; his mar-
riage came to an end. His drinking increased. And at fifty-
six, according to his niece, he was "a dissipated old man."
Then another Hollywood heart suddenly gave out.
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. spends much of his life in Eng-
land, where he has been accorded high honors by a real royal
family. I, too, have a connection with that family, as odd as
anything in royal history could be. Some pages back I men-
tioned in just a line or two a childhood pillow-fight which
might well have changed the whole history of Britain's ruling
dynasty. Now I'll tell the tale more completely.
It starts in Old Virginia, where my Uncle Powhatan
Montague was raised to become a drinking Southern gentle-
man. Pow was blessed with two lovely daughters, and one
of them — Lelia — was my favorite childhood playmate. De-
spite our childish romps, one of which ended in a pitched
battle (turning Lelia into a panting, half -suffocated, purple-
faced little girl), she grew into an intelligent, warm-hearted
beauty. Lelia married General George Barnett, who com-
manded the United States Marine Corps in the Battle of Bel-
leau Wood in 191 8, and they settled in Washington.
In nearby Baltimore lived a niece, Wallis Warfield, who
was in "reduced circumstances," as the polite phrase puts it.
Lelia took charge of the girl, and launched her in "Washing-
ton society. Wallis was bright and charming; and soon, in
the tradition of our family, she married a naval officer.
Meanwhile, a young man who had won the heart of the
world as the Prince of Wales became the reigning King of
Great Britain. He — like Doug Fairbanks — wanted to remain
young. He too refused to face the fact that he had grown
middle-aged. He ruled the whole British Empire, but could
not quite rule himself.
He was known, biographer lies Brody tells us, as M a
THE CUP OF FURY 1 37
brandy man." When he became King, his ministers were con-
cerned, and cast about to find some noble lady who might
charm him and keep him from "meddling in the govern-
ment." But the King had ideas of his own; he preferred the
lady from Baltimore. She was now Mrs. Simpson, having
divorced her first husband and married a second. The King
wanted her for his wife, and she saw nothing wrong in his
plan, even though the established Church of England forbids
remarriage after one divorce, to say nothing of two!
Soon the world learned of the romance; and then when
word leaked out that Prime Minister Baldwin was planning
to force the King to abdicate, there ensued a veritable atomic
explosion of gossip. And what was going on at this time in
I quote from the December 21, 1936 issue of Time mag-
azine: "So much brandy and soda was continually taken by
His Majesty during the early stage of the crisis. . . that the
work of the Prime Minister was really of heart-breaking dif-
ficulty. It was necessary once to apply the stomach pump.
(On Dec. 4, by Lord Horder, the King's physician . . .)"
Edward abdicated, and became the Duke of Windsor.
He married the woman he loved, and made her Duchess. A
well-informed friend in England writes me that "Wallis is
credited with effecting the reform"; and this, of course, I
am happy to record. In so doing she is following in the foot-
steps of the women of the family — but achieving greater
success than my mother had with my father, or Aunt Lelia
Sinclair with my Uncle Arthur, or Aunt Lelia Montague
with Wallis's Great-uncle Pow.
When the news got out that this Great-uncle Pow had
been Upton Sinclair's Uncle Pow, the Hearst newspapers paid
me a thousand dollars to write what I knew about that Bal-
timore family, its traditions and ways of life. I won't
138 THE CUP OF FURY
bore you with the details, but will tell one amusing effect this
assignment had on my Cousin Lelia, who had lived (despite
our warfare with pillows) to train and guide a woman able
to charm a King off his throne.
After a surgical operation, she was lying in a hospital
bed when a copy of the Washington Hearst newspaper was
brought to her. The front page was given up to but two
stories. One was about Edward's abdication, headed by a
large picture of Wallis. The other — my story telling about
our family — featured a picture of me.
Before Lelia could get over her excitement at this sight,
a troop of doctors entered the room to examine her surgical
wound. Lelia, who has a delightful sense of fun, held up the
paper to them, announcing, "One of these persons is my
first cousin, and the other is my niece."
She saw the doctors glance at one another, and she could
read perfectly what was in their thoughts: Fever and deliri-
um? Or a psychological case?
Dr. Robert C. Cabot, a scientist impartially investi-
gating the effects of alcohol on people, has written: "Alcohol
is always a narcotic, never a stimulant."
Never a stimulant! And yet, all throughout the history
of world literature, one comes upon instances of poets and
writers turning to wine and whiskey for inspiration, for new
thoughts, for "stimulation."
I want to tell you the story of two such poets of our
time. Each of them blazed with genius; each was a meteor,
here and then gone almost moments later; each was an alco-
The authors of A History of American Poetry make
this statement about the first: "Of all the poets who came
into prominence during the i93o's in America, none is more
likely to achieve immortality than Harold Hart Crane."
I think we must add a line from another critic, however.
140 THE CUP OF FURY
In Modern American Poetry, Louis Untermeyer declares:
"There will be those who will find Crane's poetry not merely
tangential but cryptic. The difficulty is caused by his combi-
nation of allusiveness and allegory, especially since the allu-
sions are often remote and the allegorical symbols personal to
the point of privacy."
For the most part, I confess, I am one of those who find
Crane's writings cryptic. In my home I have a sumptuous
volume entitled The Limits of Art. It is essentially an anthol-
ogy of the world's great literature, collected by Huntington
Cairns, a Washington lawyer. It is fastidious and exclusive,
and no living writer is represented in the main body of it.
At the end are two lines from "The Bridge" by Hart Crane,
the only modern poet represented in the 1,400 pages. They
are literally the anthologist's "last word":
O Thou steeled Cognizance whose leap commits
The agile precincts of the lark's return.
Perhaps you will puzzle over these lines as long as I have.
Or perhaps, as Untermeyer suggests, you will look for clues
to Crane's symbolism in the story of his life. It is a record,
says his biographer, Brom Weber, which "vibrates with an
explosive terror. . . elated, wretched, violent, Rabelaisian."
His poetry began to appear in "little" magazines and
radical publications before he was twenty. He committed
each thought to paper; his introspective notes were volumin-
ous; his published letters fill a book some 426 pages long, and
they detail his passions and his prejudices with almost un-
You read these letters, and find that as a youth Crane's
taste in poetry ran to Beaudelaire, Poe, Rimbaud — men
whose lives were debauched and despair-ridden. You find him
voicing the usual "young highbrow" criticisms of those whose
poetry is understandable: Tennyson is dismissed, Elizabeth
THE CUP OF FURY 141
Barrett Browning is waved away with a shrug. I think of
"Ulysses," and I recall the poem about the great god Pan, how
he sat by the river and cut a reed to make a flute — "making
a poet out of a man" — and I wince at Crane's callow feelings
You read further into his letters; and if you knew him,
or knew any of his friends, you realize that the letters do not
exaggerate. At the age of twenty he has a job in a drugstore
in Akron, Ohio. He hates the town and writes to a friend:
"Akron has afforded me one perfect evening, however. I got
dreadfully drunk on dreadful raisin brew. . ." He travels, and
everywhere he goes his experiences are described in terms of
new kinds of drinks. He moves to Cleveland, working for his
father, and he writes: "Last night I got drunk on some
sherry." He comes to New York, and reports: "There is
wine, but what is wine when you drink it alone?" He goes
to the country and there comes "an omnibus-full of people
from New York and a case of gin, to say nothing of jugs of
marvelous hard cider." He dances, "all painted up like an
African cannibal." He goes to the airport to meet a man;
they miss each other, and by the time they meet, "I had
about finished a half pint of alcohol which I had brought for
our mutual edification, and he had completely emptied a
quart of Bacardi, also originally intended as a mutual beni-
son." He goes on to a long description of a night in a speak-
easy from which he was turned out at midnight, being "both
reeling but refractory." Some men start slugging him, and
he puts up a fight, but is not "in much condition." He is
robbed of all his money. Then later we find him with "back-
ache and confinement to the bed. . . But the more probable
cause of that however is liquor and the cogitations and cere-
bral excitements it threw me into."
By this time his own poetry has begun to appear, and
142 THE CUP OF FURY
critics term it extraordinary. Often in the past he has been
poor and hungry; but now there is a stroke of great fortune,
and he is able to write to his mother as follows:
"You have probably heard of the banker, Mr. Otto H.
Kahn, who has kept the Metropolitan Opera and various other
artistic ventures endowed for years. After an interview with
Mr. Kahn at his home at noo Fifth Avenue, I was given the
sum of two thousand dollars to expend on my living expenses
during the next year, which time is to be spent in writing
the most creative messages I have to give, regardless whether
it is profitable in dollars and cents or not."
Hart Crane is twenty-six when this endowment is given
him; but his illness of mind and spirit do not disappear with
reward and recognition. "We find him next in the Isle of
Pines, getting drunk and staying drunk on Bacardi, and
quarreling with his landlady. Then we find him in Mexico.
He is thirty-three now, and has become a confirmed
and hopeless alcoholic /but like so many alcoholics, he denies
it. He writes, "I am not, as you surmise, in a constant Bacchic
state. Not by any means. However, I happen to be in some-
thing approximating it at this moment as I have got to work
on the first impressive poem I've started on in the last two
Then, a somewhat comical development: he employs a
Mexican servant who also takes the liberty of getting drunk.
"Senor Daniel Hernandez is morose and very threatening in-
deed in spite of the fact that I haven't even reprimanded him
for his recent drunkenness. Liza is scared to death of him,"
and so on. . . "Daniel will probably come lurching in about
eight tonight and begin to flirt a knife and pistol about. Such
is quiet life in this pretty retreat!"
He has got himself a lady, and he writes to her as fol-
lows: "Dearest: I was so tremulous and distracted with the
THE CUP OF FURY 1 43
domestic situation that I described yesterday to you, that last
night I went on a mild tare (sic) with Liza here in the salon*
I finally came to the decision of packing up and leaving for
the States within the week." Then, "Daniel came home
stewed again last night. . . But I was too gay with Liza and
tequila and dancing." Then, £ve days later, "True to my
word last night I got very lit. Daniel had come home that way
anyhow, and I took the opportunity to talk to him about so-
briety — meanwhile pouring him glass after glass of the
Tenampa I bought."
You won't wish to leave Mexico without saying a good-
bye to "Senor Daniel Hernandez." Hart writes to his step-
mother on April 22nd, "Then at the last moment my servant
got roaring drunk and left, and came back and shook the
gate to its foundations, yelling threats against my life, ter-
rorizing us for days, until we had to call on the American
Embassy for special police service, etc., and so on. Do you
wonder that I have been anxious to get off as soon as pos-
And then, his last communication, number 405. It is
dated Havana, Cuba, April 26, 1932: a postcard, saying,
"Off here for a few hours on my way north. Will write
soon." From that steamer, when the noon whistle blew, he
dove into the Caribbean sea and his body was never found.
His great work, an attempt at an epic poem on America,
was left incomplete.
There is a line in Wordsworth's poem, "Resolution and
Independence," which reads:
. . . mighty poets in their misery dead . . .
144 THE cup OF FURY
Such is the epitaph one might utter for Dylan Marlais
Thomas, born in October, 19 14, dead after his thirty-ninth
year. In many ways he was the Byron of our generation — a
tempestuous, vibrant young man hailed by colleagues and
critics alike as one of the greatest poets of the twentieth cen-
tury. Like Byron, he became a legend while yet alive. People
who had never read a line of his poetry nevertheless knew of
his grotesque exploits; they feasted on them and gossiped
about them, and asked each other, "What can you expect
from so rare a genius?"
Indeed, I have sometimes wondered if Thomas's de-
mented actions did not serve to increase his audience in Eng-
land and America for his poetry, his dramatic readings, his
broadcasts, and later his recordings. People seem to expect and
applaud wild amorality from poets.
Thomas was born in Wales, worked briefly as a journalist,
and then devoted his full energies to poetry; with imagery
that derives both from the ages-old, peaceful fishing villages
of his home and the world of twentieth century man, his
work has a force and vitality that has affected the whole world
of letters. Like Crane, he is often cryptic and puzzling.
Like Crane's, his life is a record of horror and catas-
Thomas was invited to make an American lecture tour
by John Malcolm Brinnin, leader of an active poetry center
in New York. The story of his four trips is told in Brinnin's
Dylan Thomas in America, and it is at once shocking and sor-
did, pathetic and searing. Brinnin meets Thomas at the
airport, and the poet goes straight to a bar for a breakfast
of double Scotch and soda. He arrives at his hotel room and
orders beer. He changes clothes and heads for a Third Avenue
bar. Then he goes from bar to bar until he finds a satisfactory
one, and there settles down for a succession of beers and a
THE CUP OF FURY 145
sandwich. His evening is spent in Greenwich Village pub-
Brinnin has not known him more than a day when he
makes this observation:
He had drunk too fast and too much and
while by now I needed no further evidence of his
incredible capacity, I could see that he was feeling
the effects of this evening's bout more sharply
than those of any other since he had arrived. His
chin fell onto his chest . . . and he slept until his
cigarette burned his fingers, jerking him awake. . .
The "purest lyrical poet of the twentieth cen-
tury — " here he was, sadly crumpled in drunken
exhaustion, "Black-tongued and tipsy from Salva-
tion's bottle," unable to think for himself, to face
himself, or to face for what they were the insati-
able attentions that could only destroy him.
At parties he made direct and uninhibited overtures to
women; he was obscene, and delighted in the use of nasty
words and shocking phrases. One "morning after" he said to
his hostess: "I expect I was a pretty bad boy last night, wasn't
I?" She reassured him, saying that "he was fine." "No, I
wasn't," he said, "and do you know what the trouble is? I'm
going to do the very same thing tonight."
His tour was a fantasy of missed appearances, muddled
appointments, drunken binges, boorish behavior — and beau-
ty. His dramatic readings were triumphant. The legend grew.
People thronged to hear him; others thronged to the bars
he habituated, to see him, like so many curious gazing in ex-
citement at the scene of a wreck or an explosion or a fire. The
doctors told him that to drink was to die, but he drank. And
he seemed to know what was happening, what he was doing
146 THE CUP OF FURY
In the Reporter magazine, Mary Ellin Barrett told the
story of one luncheon meeting with Thomas. She had been
assigned by Time magazine to interview the poet. They meet:
We shook hands. "I am feeling," Thomas
informed me, "like death. A bad night. A very
bad night . . . Let's get a drink."
They go to a nearby restaurant. Thomas has a drink;
then his wife comes in, saying that she has been looking for
him in three bars already. He orders oysters and another Tom
The reporter tries hard to get him to answer the questions
she has prepared. She has copied out eight lines from a poem
which she could not understand, and she asks him to explain
them. One line reads, "Be ye sure the Thief will seek a way
sly and sure." She wants to know what "the Thief" sym-
"The Thief?" he said, quietly, "Who is the Thief?
Well, today for me the Thief is this." He pointed
to his empty glass. "Alcohol is the Thief today."
There is terror in stories like these; terror at what whis-
key can do to the minds of men. And there is poignancy,
and sorrow for the sufferer unable to break from the grip.
People who knew Thomas, even those who knew him only
through his work, felt shock — and then sympathy. Here
is the way Hans Meyerhoff" described one such experience in
"The Violence of Dylan Thomas," an article which appeared
in the July 11, 1955, issue of The New Republic:
I saw and heard Dylan Thomas only once.
De mortuis . . . Perhaps it is unbecoming to re-
member him as I do. . .
It was a public reading of poetry at a univer-
sity . . . He had trouble finding his bearings behind
the lectern. He appeared unsteady, nervous, and
THE CUP OF FURY I47
ill at ease. The notes from which he was going to
read were written on loose sheets which looked like
scraps of paper. As he was shuffling them rapidly,
perhaps to put them into some kind of order, they
fluttered to the floor. He stooped down, scrambled
after them, and scooped them up in awkward ges-
tures — all the while cursing in sotto voce obsceni-
ties. Then he poured himself a glass of water; only
he didn't. He held the water pitcher with an out-
stretched arm and aimed at the glass below; but
he missed it; and a s-teady stream of water ran
from the pitcher onto the floor. There was no
doubt now that he was unsteady. Nobody laughed.
There was a deep silence in the room.
Then he began to read, without a word of
greeting, from his notes. He read hurriedly and
half-audibly, as if embarrassed. . . . Let's get this
over with as quickly as possible, because I am suf-
fering — he seemed to say and said it in almost
these words. And then the initial shock gave way
to a wave of deep sympathy among his listeners;
for he obviously was suffering. This was some kind
of indignity; and he responded to it with ill-con-
cealed disdain and suppressed anger. Let's get this
over with quickly so that I can read a poem. For
when he reached for the books on his side, he was
a being transformed. . .
Dylan Thomas died suddenly, in the midst of his 1953
lecture tour. A group of friends and admirers took up a col-
lection for his wife and children.
Mighty poets in their misery dead I
The liquor industry spends approximately $250,000,000
a year to advertise and promote its products, and additional
millions of dollars on "educational" work. The liquor lobby
is in every state capitol and in our national capitol; it has
card files of executives and legislators. The lobby knows who
its friends are, and it seeks to hold them. It knows who its
enemies are, and it seeks to convert or defeat them.
The lobbies have several purposes. Always, of course,
to fight against Prohibition movements and to campaign for
lower taxes on liquors. They insist that they are four-square
against drunkenness. Moderation is what they preach. Alco-
holism is a "disease" they deplore.
Alcoholism is a disease, of course. But it scarcely seems
to me that this excuses or clears the distillers of responsibility.
Cancer does not advertise itself as a symbol of "thought-
ful hospitality"; heart disease does not spend a quarter of
THE CUP OF FURY 1 49
a billion dollars annually to announce that it is an "aid to
gracious living." Neither polio nor tuberculosis describe them-
selves in handsome posters and colorful magazine-spreads as a
means to healthful relaxation and enjoyment. The Brewers
Digest once discussed the sales condition of the beer industry,
and reached the conclusion that it "had not yet found a satis-
factory answer to the problem of introducing beer to a high
percentage of the younger generation." Other diseases are
not sold, advertised, pressured, promoted, lobbied and press-
agented in this way. Other diseases are fought with drastic
surgery or skilled preventive medicine.
I have come to a point in this book, I believe, where I
must for a time depart from my stories about my friends and
fellows in the world of writing. With you I want to look
at facts and statistics about liquor; the chemistry of its effects,
the extent of its damage and the cost of its depredations.
With you I want to look at the record of youthful drinking
in our nation today. These were the facts which impelled me
to write this book; they frighten me, and they rouse in me a
desire to fight with the weapon I know best — truthful
There are more than four and a half million alcoholics
in this nation today, and almost three-quarters of a million
of them are women. This is the figure given us by the Yale
University Center of Alcoholic Studies. It is a figure for the
year 1953, arrived at in the last month of 1955; but there is
no reason for us to believe that the number of alcoholics de-
creased during the long months while the statistics were
Indeed, every indication presented in the study is that
the number today must be far higher. The percentage of al-
coholics per 100,000 Americans increased only slightly be-
tween 19 $2 and 1953; but between 1940 and 1952, it in-
I50 THE CUP OF FURY
creased by forty-five percent among males and fifty-two per-
cent among females.
Notice that these figures are based on population — so
that when one reads that there are 7,800 alcoholics in Wash-
ington, D. C, for every 100,000 people, it means that there
are 7,800 alcoholics in a group of people which includes new-
born babies, grade-school children, young teen-agers, adults
who abstain completely, and finally the adults who drink.
The figure of concern to me is how many of these adults
who are "social drinkers" and "moderate drinkers" become
alcoholics — because that's the way my father and his broth-
ers began, and that's what Jack London and George Sterling
thought they were, and what Hart Crane and Dylan Thomas
hoped to be: "social drinkers."
The answer to my question comes from Dr. Andrew
Ivy, professor of the Department of Physiology of the Uni-
versity of Illinois. Reporting the results of investigations
made by the Institute of Scientific Studies for the Prevention
of Alcoholism, Dr. Ivy declared that one out of every sixteen
casual, social, moderate drinkers becomes an alcoholic; one
out of nine becomes what he calls a "problem drinker." He
went on to express the fear that should the present rate of
increase in alcohol consumption and alcoholism continue, the
ratio of the "problem" drinker to the "social drinker" will
similarly increase within ten or fifteen years from one in
nine to one in five.
Alcoholism is now the nation's fourth most serious health
problem. Science has begun to find ways to treat it with a
variety of weapons: vitamins and hormones to restore the
body balance, drugs to decrease the pressure of psychological
difficulties, other drugs to keep the alcoholic from going back
to the bottle by making him violently ill if he "falls off the
wagon," and psychotherapy to get at the emotional reasons
THE CUP OF FURY 151
for his urge to destroy himself with whiskey. Each day there
are new studies of why liquor "gets at" some people more
than others: it is a chemical imbalance, one school says. It is
an allergy, says the next faction.
It is even made plain that in truth no one who drinks
escapes ill effects. The December, 1953, issue of Scientific
American magazine featured an article by Leon A. Green-
berg, associate professor and director of the Department of
Applied Physiology at Yale University. He is one of the
founders of the Yale Center of Alcohol Studies, and the in-
ventor of the Alcometer, the device by which the police tell
whether you are High, Tight, or Drunk. There could be no
Dr. Greenberg tells us that alcohol is not digested, but
passes directly into the bloodstream. When it reaches the
brain, this is what happens: "N^
A blood concentration of about .05 per cent
of alcohol, which in a person of average size re-
sults from drinking two or more ounces of whis-
key, depresses the uppermost level of the brain — (
the center of inhibitions, restraint and judgment.
At this stage the drinker feels that he is sitting on
top of the world; he is "a free human being";
many of his normal inhibitions vanish; he takes
personal and social liberties as the impulse prompts;
he is long-winded and can lick anybody in the
country. Such a man has undergone an obvious
blunting of self-criticism.
Double that amount, and the drinker begins to stagger.
Professor Greenberg tells us:
Contrary to old and popular belief, alcohol
does not stimulate the nervous system. The illu-
sion of stimulation results from the removal of
I52 THE CUP OF FURY
inhibitions and restraints. The effects may be
compared to a releasing of the brakes, not a step-
ping on the accelerator. Even with a few drinks,
digital dexterity is reduced; auditory and visual
discrimination fall away; tactile perception is
lowered; the speed of motor response drops. De-
spite these measurable losses, the drinker often
asserts that his reaction, perception and discrimi-
nation are better.
This is the false effect, then, which has led so many
writers to believe that their work is more fluent and inspired
after a round of drinks. Like "peace gestures" from a war-
ring nation, whiskey's first false glow succeeds in making
even shrewd and trained observers let down their guard. They
recognize the eventual danger, yet want to believe the present
propaganda. Here, for example, is the way Stanley Walker
expressed his thoughts on drinking in his book, City Editor*,
In the popular mind, a newspaper man is one
who drinks a great deal. It is true that most news-
paper men drink; it is also true that booze takes
many of them to a pathetic ending. But the ma-
jority of newspaper men today are careful about
their liquor; they have to be . . . the stories of re-
porters who write just as well on twelve highballs
as when cold sober are utter bunk. A man may
stagger horribly through writing a column while
groggy and get by with it, but he would have
done much better if he had had nothing to drink.
All industry is now awakening to the fact that people
indeed do "much better" when sober. Professor Greenberg
and his colleagues at Yale report that the alcoholic worker
is absent from his job an average of twenty-five days a year;
that while on the job, his accident rate is double that of the
THE CUP OF FURY 1 53
normal employee. Current estimates are that alcoholic work-
ers and employees with "hangovers" cost industry one billion
dollars a year in money and 400,000,000 man-hours of time.
Every day of the week, some 175,000 men and women are
absent from work because of what they drank the night be-
And do you want the picture of other costs of drunken-
ness? Here in my state, it was announced that the cost of
liquor-caused traffic casualties was over $36,500,000 in Los
Angeles alone. In Massachusetts, they studied the relation-
ship between the amount of money received as revenue in-
come from the sale of liquor, and money paid out because of
alcoholism; and they found that for every one dollar of liquor
revenue coming to the state treasury, the taxpayers paid out
$4.82 to take care of known liquor-caused court cases, jail
costs, hospitalization, emergency care on highways, and wel-
One final set of figures: in 1953, when — according to
Yale University — there were 4,589,000 alcoholics in this na-
tion, our national consumption of liquor was reckoned at
18.95 gallons per person, thus reaching the staggering total of
I reflect on all these figures, and in truth I would expect
to find a nation united against the glamorizing of drinking.
Instead, I read in one of our smart magazines an account of
two days spent with one of our most eminent novelists. I
learned in the reading of it that the gentleman desires either
bourbon or champagne every hour or two, and certainly de-
votes a good part of his conversation to the flavors and quali-
ties of these liquors. In another publication, one of our most
widely-circulated weekly magazines, there was an account of
a second respected and eminent novelist. I quote a part of
one sentence, with the permission of the magazine writer:
154 THE CUP OF FURY
"He escapes periodically and sometimes for periods of weeks
into alcoholism, until his drinking has become legendary in
his town and in his profession, and hospitalization and injec-
tions have on occasion been necessary to save his life."
I read these reports, and I wonder what the reaction of
our youth will be as they peruse them. Will they feel, as did
the Lamb hero, that one must burn the house to its founda-
tions in order to roast a pig? Will they feel that the pathway
to genius is through gin?
Just what is the pathway our youth is following?
Look with me, if you will, into a book which gives many
of the answers. It is titled Drinking in College, and was writ-
ten by Robert Straus and Selden D. Bacon, who based their
report on research conducted by Yale University.
The sub -title of the work is "A Survey of the Customs
and Attitudes Toward Alcohol of Men and Women in Twen-
ty-seven American Colleges." The flaps of the book's dust
jacket express its contents clearly:
This is the long-awaited report of the survey
conducted by the Yale Center of Alcoholic Studies
on the drinking customs and attitudes of college
students in the United States. From 1949 through
195 1, seventeen thousand men and women stu-
dents in twenty-seven colleges provided informa-
tion about their social background and personal
habits and attitudes toward liquor. . . Here at
last is an organized body of factual knowledge
to replace speculation, to provide a basis for a
realistic explanation of behavior, and to suggest
more reasonable and realistic action by persons . . .
who are called upon to make important decisions
and provide guidance for young people.
THE CUP OF FURY IJJ
College students are a group of particular
significance for the study of drinking. They are
at the age when drinking starts for many persons,
initial experiences are fresh in their minds, and
they easily identify the pressures and purposes
associated with early drinking. This study shows
who drinks and who does not, when and where
those who drink first started drinking, why and
how much they drink, the influence of parents
and the significance of income, religious affiliation,
and ethnic background.
The basic mass figure is: seventy-four percent of all the
17,000 students "reported having used alcoholic beverages to
some extent." The chapters of the book report on various as-
pects of the problem, and I quote a few of the figures:
Chapter Four: Seventy-nine percent of the men who
drink and sixty-five percent of the women who drink report
that their drinking started before entering college.
Chapter Six: "Drinking Parents" Two- thirds of the
fathers drink, and so do forty-eight percent of the mothers.
Chapter Seven: "What do Students Brink?" As first
preference, the answer is: for men, forty-seven percent beer,
eleven percent wine, forty-two percent spirits. For women
the choices are: seventeen percent beer, twenty-five percent
wine, and fifty-eight percent spirits.
Chapter Eight: "How Much and How Often?" Fre-
quency during the past year, one to £ve times: for men, nine-
teen percent; for women, twenty-seven percent.
Twice a month to once a week: for men, thirty-six
percent; for women, thirty-seven percent. Four or more days
a week: for men, three percent; for women, one percent.
Chapter Nine: "When, Where, with Whom?" We
I $6 THE CUP OF FURY
learn that of students who drink, eleven percent of the men
and nine percent of the women began drinking between the
ages of eleven and fifteen. Thirty-six percent of the men and
forty-seven percent of the women began in their sixteenth or
seventeenth years. Fifty-three percent of the men and forty-
four percent of the women began at eighteen and older.
Chapter Ten: "High, Tight, and Drunk." "Tight" is
defined as "Unsteadiness in ordinary physical activities, or
noticeable aggressiveness, or over-solicitousness, or loss of con-
trol over social amenities or of verbal accuracy, or slight nau-
sea." Twenty percent of the men and fifty-one percent of the
women report that they have never been tight. Twenty-five
percent of the men and thirty-two percent of the women
report that they have been tight from one to five times.
Eighteen percent of the men and nine percent of the girls re-
port being tight from six to fifteen times; seventeen percent
of the men and four percent of the girls, from sixteen to fifty
times. For from fifty-one to one hundred times, the per-
centage of women is negligible and that of men is five per-
cent. Finally, four percent of the men report being "tight"
a hundred times or more; and eleven percent of the men and
four percent of the women report having been tight "at
times," but do not state the frequency.
And then comes the table reporting on those who have
been drunk, which is defined as "an overstepping of social
expectancies (short of completely passing out), loss of con-
trol in ordinary physical activities, and inability to respond to
reactions of others." Thirty-eight percent of the men and
eighty-two percent of the women report that this has oc-
curred once; and eight percent of the men and one percent
of the women report that it occurred from six to ten times.
Beyond that the percentage of women is again negligible, but
five percent of the men report having been drunk from eleven
THE CUP OF FURY 157
to twenty times, and four percent of the men and one per-
cent of the women report that on occasion they "have been
drunk," but do not state the frequency.
And then the most advanced stage, passing out. The
number of those who report this as having happened "once" is
sixteen percent for men, seven percent for women. "Twice"
is eight percent for men, one percent for women. More than
twice, one percent of women drinkers and nine percent of
The book reveals that seventy-nine percent of the men
and sixty-five percent of the women had their first drink
before entering college. With regard to parental drinking,
ninety-two percent of the men report that both of their
parents used alcohol; eighty-three percent of the women re-
port the same.
I invite all parents to examine the statement which fol-
lows: "When both parents drink, eighty- three percent of
the female students are drinkers, compared with a mere
twenty- three percent when both parents abstain. These data
suggest that parental example is a factor of major significance
in drinking by young people."
Remember, then, that seventy- four percent of our college
youth are now "social" and "moderate" drinkers. Imagine
that one of every sixteen of them will be an alcoholic. Re-
mind yourself that one out of every five or nine will be a
"problem drinker." You will go with these facts to the
young people you know, and you will warn them and plead
And I can tell you now what many will say: "But drink-
ing is a custom. Everybody in my fraternity (sorority, class)
does it. If you don't, you're a freak!"
Fortunately, the authors of Drinking in College delved
into this problem as well. And Table 95 in their book, headed
I58 THE CUP OF FURY
"Attitude Toward Abstainers," tells quite clearly what hap-
pens to one socially if he does not drink in college.
If the student abstains, and makes no special point about
it, fifty-four percent of his fellow-students will have feelings
of admiration, approval and respect for him. Forty percent
will be indifferent to his position. Four percent will feel re-
sentment, scorn, disapproval or derogation. Two percent
will feel pity.
Thus, among every ten of his classmates, there will be
nine who either do not care or feel real admiration for the
student who does not drink. Just one will feel scorn or pity.
And what about the girl who abstains from liquor? In
this case, thirty-two percent of her fellow-students will not
care at all. Sixty- two percent will admire, approve and
respect her. And again, four percent will feel hostility; and
two percent, pity. Almost two-thirds of the women will
think the better of the girl who does not drink!
These are the figures which the brewers and the distillers
fear! These are the figures which make them spend a quarter
of a billion dollars a year to show that liquor is essential to
social success. This is why their sales managers and their
salesmen, their advertising experts and their publicists, their
copywriters and their artists deem it important to introduce
their product "to a high percentage of the younger genera-
They know that more than half the country admires
the men and the women who do not fall for the lies of their
advertisements nor the lies of their product.
"Old Crow" is the name of a liquor manufactured by
the National Distillers Products Corporation. It is available
in two proofs — 86-proof and ioo-proof. Its advertisements
call it: "The Greatest Name in Bourbon."
The brand has been sold in the United States for over
one hundred years. This is a source of considerable pride to
the distillers, and in magazine advertisements they frequently
link their product with other names which have figured in
the American past — Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Mark
Twain, Governor Robert Letcher of Kentucky, Bret Harte,
and so on.
So great is their interest in the part their bourbon has
played in our national heritage that they have set up a New
York City office called the "Old Crow Historical Bureau."
In advertisments they invite the public "to participate in a
search for historical facts about Old Crow." And those fortu-
l6o THE CUP OF FURY
nate scholars who are the first to contribute an authenticated
fact about "The Greatest Name in Bourbon," and have it ac-
cepted, receive an award from the company of $250.00.
An advertisment making this generous offer recently ap-
peared in Saturday Review magazine. One award-winning
fact cited in it referred to Jack London. It told how London
brought a bottle of Old Crow as a gift to his friend, Martin
Eden, and then proposed a toast: "Skaal to the Old Crow,
Martin — it is best!"
Now I cannot vouch for the brand? of the liquor he
consumed, but I can tell the "Old Crow Historical Bureau"
many more interesting facts about Jack's drinking. And I
should imagine that in the service of Americana — that in the
light of their enthusiasm for "the raw materials of history,"
as they call these facts — they will want to bring the rest of
the story to the American public. My account will certainly
demonstrate what a connoisseur of alcohols Jack London
was, and thus the story should make his estimate of Old Crow
as "the best" all the more impressive.
I pledge that if I am awarded a prize of $250.00, I shall
use it to disseminate even further the story of London's ex-
periences with 86-proof and 100-proof drinks. We'll put
our heads together, the "Old Crow Historical Bureau" and
I, and we'll plan to send reprints to all those places where
interested students of alcohol gather — bars, retail liquor
stores, certain wards of certain hospitals, prisons, the "skid
row" streets of innumerable cities, and so on.
Here, then, is the rest of Jack London's story.
The world cruise of London's ship, The Snark, was
brought to an end during World War 1 by his ill health.
Jack wrote me from Australia to say that he had contracted
THE CUP OF FURY l6l
nine tropical diseases; this seemed a fearsome total, and I
wondered if some of the illnesses were not more likely tem-
porary manifestations of too much drink.
Jack had set out for the South Seas with no liquor on
board, and with the resolve that he would drink only when
in port. But he tells us in his book, John Barleycorn, or Al-
coholic Memoirs, that such was not long the case. He was
soon in port, and soon he drank; then, as the voyage con-
tinued, he discovered that a quantity of liquor had been
stowed on board without his knowledge. He drained this
supply; then when he reached the next port, he wanted
more. And after that he always carried liquor on the little
Ashore, he drank with his guests and with his hosts;
at sea he drank alone or with his crew. Then he sold the
vessel and returned to the United States by steamship, settling
on a ranch he had bought in the Valley of Moon, north of
San Francisco. He had written me about it. "A most wonder-
ful place," he said. He was going to plant eucalyptus trees
on the ranch and make a fortune. Later he wrote that he had
indeed planted a hundred thousand trees, but the fortune
He tells us that it was at this ranch that he began hard
drinking again. He doesn't know "just why" — but he sup-
poses that he was beginning to pay for his score of years of
habitual dallying with John Barleycorn. He makes all sorts
of excuses and rationalizations: when guests came to the
ranch it would have been a "hardship" for them not to have
liquor. So he laid in a supply, telling himself that it was
only for his guests — but he drank it himself. He didn't
know how to mix cocktails, so he had one of his barkeeper
1 62 THE CUP OF FURY
friends in Oakland prepare the cocktails and ship them to
him. Then he noticed that even when he didn't have guests
he wanted those cocktails.
He goes on to reveal what all drinkers will recognize,
the process by which a man is lured into ever greater in-
dulgence. There had been a time when a single cocktail
would give him the glow he craved; but now he found he
needed two. And if his guest wanted only one, Jack would
drink another in secret. When he had no guest he would still
He says, "And right there John Barleycorn had me. I
was beginning to drink regularly. I was beginning to drink
alone. And I was beginning to drink, not for hospitality's
sake, not for the sake of taste, but for the effect of the drink."
The time came when the two cocktails were not enough;
he had to have three. Then three just between the time he
ended his morning's work and sat down to eat his noon
meal! He takes you along step by step, showing you how an
alcoholic is made, and to me it all seemed as familiar as the
letters that spell my name.
He would ride over the mountains on horseback, he
would swim in his swimming pool, and then he would feel
"glorious" — and when could be a more proper time to have
a drink than when one is feeling so good, and can feel more
glorious still? He would have a crowd of friends over to the
ranch, and they would all feel "glorious." Or he would get
good news in the mail, and would want to celebrate that.
And sometimes there would be bad news. For example,
his favorite horse got caught in a barbed-wire fence and
kicked himself to death. The way to get over the grief was
to have an extra cocktail. Next there came a whole string of
disasters in Jack's agricultural and animal husbandry pro-
THE CUP OF FURY 1 63
jects — his registered pigs all died of pneumonia, his prize
shorthorn bull fouled a horn and broke its neck, his elaborate
new ranch house burned to the ground the day it was
finished, sharp traders overcharged him, and spiteful neigh-
bors tied up his water rights. In short, he had a typical run
of rancher's hard luck. And when could be a more proper
time to have a drink than when one is feeling so miserable, and
needs a "lift"? And so he drank constantly. When he went
to the city he always ordered double cocktails "because they
All this continued and grew worse. When he travelled
he was afraid he might be stuck somewhere without a drink,
so he always carried several quarts with him. He had looked
down on people who did that in the past, but now he did it
"unblushingly." He cast all rules by the board; he drank
alone, and when he was with other people he out-drank
them. He says he was carrying an "alcoholic conflagration"
around with him. He reached and passed the quart-of-
New struggles to control himself began, but he was
powerless. He had begun to take a drink in the middle of
his morning's work; now he decided that this he should do no
more. But when he sat down to the typewriter he made a
frightening discovery — no ideas would come unless he had
a drink. John Barleycorn was holding him up — no drink,
no inspiration. He had once told me in New York that he
made it a rule to earn a hundred dollars every morning be-
fore breakfast; now Jack London would sit at his typewriter
and the only idea he could think of was the bottle in the
cabinet on the other side of the room. He would go there and
get a drink and immediately the ideas would flow, the thou-
sand words were magically tapped out on the typewriter. But
1 64 THE CUP OF FURY
they were of ever-deteriorating quality. The year before his
last he was seen wandering about the bars of Oakland, dazed
and disagreeably drunk.
Can you imagine anything more pitiful than the spec-
tacle of a man of genius wasting his faculties in a struggle
such as this? At forty he had reached the pinnacle as the
best-known, best-paid, most popular writer in the world. He
had scaled this height from difficult, squalid beginnings. The
illegitimate child of an itinerant astrologer and an emotionally
unstable mother, he was raised in poverty by a loyal and
inexhaustibly friendly stepfather and stepsister. Jack had
hurtled upwards on the basis of his own unbounded talent,
overflowing good spirits, and persevering courage. Think of
him as he takes stock of himself: he has everything in the
world to make him happy. He has a wife who is devoted to
him, an estate which is his dream of loveliness, horses to ride,
and a host of friends riding at his side. He has money in the
bank and he has fame — his name is known and honored all
over the world. But the only thing that's important now is
a bottle. Not even a bottle — just a drink!
He knows that whiskey is poison to him; yet he cannot
live without that poison. He makes all sorts of resolutions,
tries all sorts of devices, but he cannot live without his whis-
key: he cannot think, he cannot write. He knows his work
is deteriorating. His last novels, Burning Daylight and
The Valley of the Moon, are so poor in quality that you can
scarcely believe you are reading books by London. The maga-
zines still buy his tales. The publishers still issue them, be-
cause they bear the label. The public will take them. But
the writer knows!
When John Barleycorn was published, Jack sent me a
copy and I wrote to thank him. I praised him for his courage
and frankness. But to myself I uttered a private prayer —
THE CUP OF FURY l6$
that having gone this far in his understanding of the terrible
dangers of drink, he would be able to go the one great step
further, and give it up completely. I feared the hint of dis-
aster which seemed implicit in his concluding words of John
Barleycorn. I feared his insistence that he was not an alco-
holic, that he was going to continue drinking, "but more
skillfully, more discreetly."
Jack's book was a fantastic success, spurred on by
widespread activities in its behalf by zealous Prohibitionists.
That the work of a drinker who had no intention of stopping
drinking should become a major propaganda piece in the
campaign for Prohibition is surely one of the choice ironies
in the history of alcohol.
Prohibition came in 19 19, but Jack London did not
stop drinking. Nor did he drink "more skillfully, more
discreetly." George Sterling wrote to tell me how things were
going — and they were not going well.
Jack's manners had become those of a nerve-wracked
man. He would take over the conversation and pound the
table. If you disagreed with him he would quarrel. His lively
wit had dulled; his humor was crude horseplay, or crazily
complex practical jokes.
He had purchased some trick drinking glasses, which
had tiny holes around the rim; when a guest tilted the glass
to drink, the liquid would run down his neck. His swim-
ming pool was constructed with a secret passage under the
water. Jack would dive in and swim through that passage
and come up in another place, leaving his guests terrified,
sure that he had drowned. A book bearing the title A Loud
Noise was left around; when the cover was opened, a fire-
cracker inside exploded. Rope arrangements permitted guests'
beds to be rocked from another room; hapless visitors, thus
shaken from their beds in the dark of the night, would dash
1 66 THE CUP OF FURY
out of their rooms, shouting "Earthquake! Earthquake!"
And Jack would laugh: this was humor, this was fun, this
Even after their long, intimate years of friendship,
George Sterling could no longer endure the drunken rituals
at the ranch. His visits to London became ever less frequent.
Yet Jack could still show flashes of his former self. He
decided to go to Hawaii, and took with him the bulky manu-
script of a new book I had written, The Cry for Justice. He
read it on the steamer, and sent back in the mails one of the
finest pieces of writing he ever did. It was an introduction
for my book, and I quote from it:
It is so simple a remedy — merely service.
Not one ignoble thought or act is demanded by
anyone of all the men and women in the world
to make fair the world. The call is for nobility of
thinking, nobility of doing. The call is for serv-
ice^ and such is the wholesomeness of it, he who
serves all best serves himself.
In the fall of 191 6 he returned to the ranch in the
Valley of Moon. Craig told me that she was worried about
Jack. "I feel that he's in trouble," she said. "I think you
ought go to see him."
But then we read in a newspaper that Jack was dead.
At seven a.m. on the morning of the sixteenth of November,
he had been found unconscious in his bedroom. Two empty
bottles, one with a morphine sulphate label and the other
labelled atropine sulphate, were found on the floor, and on
a pad there were scribbled calculations of the lethal dosages
of the drugs. Doctors treated him all day, but except for a
single brief flicker of consciousness he did not respond, and
at a little after seven that evening he died.
My husband is going Crusading again. Shall
I go with him?
You -may guess what Crusading is. It is a
word tve have chosen for something he is always
promising not to do — and which he is always
doing, , ,
I quote these words from Spring Song, 191 8, a prose
poem written by Craig just a few years after our marriage.
It has been our fortune and our fate to fight side by side in
many crusades; and I would like to share with you both her
words and the story of how she came to write them.
America was at war with Germany; and I, although an
ardent pacifist, had argued for our entry into that war, be-
lieving deeply that this country could not permit the demo-
cratic nations to be conquered by the Kaiser. Now my one
hope was to help prevent the anguish of another such conflict
1 68 THE CUP OF FURY
in the future. I resolved to start a monthly magazine to be
devoted to "a Clean Peace and the Internation."
Our funds were low, and Craig was straining against
heavy obstacles to create a home for us and a studio for me.
Revolted by the savagery of the war, she was bending all her
efforts to these two domestic goals. My decision to borrow
money and publish a monthly periodical seemed more than
she could contemplate. But I said it was my duty — and duty
is an almost-sacred word to Craig. For several days she
wrestled with the problem, and then one morning she silently
handed Spring Song to me as her first contribution to my new
. . . My husband is going Crusading again.
Shall I go with him?
I sit frowning over endless manuscripts; and
then I look out of the window , and oh, it is spring-
time out there! I see jonquils, and a breath of them
floats to me with the warm sunshine; beyond are
the mountains where I know there are "trails,"
calling for footsteps. Is not my duty there — when
all my being yearns for sweet, calm hours under
the skies? I am so weary of Crusades! May not
this Crusade be deferred — just a little while?
Or is this, as my husband says, the supreme
hour for the world, when to act on the call of
conscience may be to answer the need of the whole
world? Is it, as he says, no time to think of beauty,
peace, and health — when young men are going to
face the cannon, answering the call of their con-
My husband and I are going Crusading to-
The magazine was launched; it failed to achieve a "clean
THE CUP OF FURY 1 6$
peace," of course, just as the League of Nations failed to
achieve a lasting peace. The years sped by, the problems of
World War I festered and grew — and in the mid-thirties, sud-
denly but inevitably, there was Hitler. Again I could foresee a
world conflagration. Hitler had announced his program, and
he was fast implementing it. He was going to seize all of
Europe, and he was certain of his power to do it. He called
the rest of the world fools, and indeed we were — too foolish
to arm, too frightened to say "thus far and no farther," too
blindly hopeful to understand the writing on the wall.
I watched events, and was tormented by them; again I
was a pacifist predicting a war and calling for it. Tension
was heaping up in my soul.
Back in the old home in Pasadena which Craig had made
for me — there was a fence and a rose hedge around it now,
and it was quiet — I walked up and down one night in the
garden path, thinking. Then something happened for which
I have no explanation and no name. It was as though a spring
had been touched or a button pressed . . .
A novel came rolling into the field of my mental vision;
not just the outline, but a whole series of events, with the
emotions that accompanied them, a string of characters, old
and young, good and bad, rich and poor. I had had this
experience before, but never with such force, such mass and
persistence. There was no resisting it, and I didn't try. I
spent the next thirty-six hours in a state of absorption.
I slept little, but lay in bed and "saw" my theme. I ate little
and talked little. When I told my wife what was happening,
she was delighted, for this meant that I was out of politics
and doing "my kind of work." I trod the garden path hard
under my feet, and filled sheets of paper with notes of char-
acters, places, events — the whole panorama of a novel called
I70 THE CUP OF FURY
The scene is Europe, with a visit to New England and
New York. The time of the story is 191 3 to 19 19. I had
lived in England, Holland, Germany, France and Italy during
19 1 2 and 191 3, and naturally my thoughts had been there
during the years of my story, the years of warmaking and
peacemaking. Also, the records of the period are voluminous;
for that one novel I must have read a hundred books, and
to check my information I must have written hundreds of
letters and asked a thousand questions.
The hero is Lanny Budd, an American boy, thirteen at
the beginning; at a dancing school in Germany he meets a
German boy and an English boy, and later we watch all the
events of the war and the peace through the eyes of these
three. Lanny's father and grandfather are American muni-
tions manufacturers, and so his view is from the inside of
affairs. When I was writing about the Paris Peace Conference,
I communicated with an authority on modern fiction to find
out if anybody had ever used that event in a novel. The
reply was, "Could anybody?" I thought that somebody
"could," and now I have. My account of those events was
read and checked by eight or ten gentlemen who were on
the American staff.
World's End was published in 1940, and it became a
great success; it was taken by a major book club, and its sales
have been 200,000 in America and 40,000 in Britain. It has
been translated and published in seventeen languages that I
know about. Even before I finished, I realized that Lanny
would go on. So much had happened in the world — how
could he, situated as he was, keep out of it? How could his
friends keep out of it?
They couldn't; and so, every year, there was a new
Lanny Budd story. Volume III, Dragon's Teeth, deals with
the coming of the Nazis, and it received the Pulitzer Prize.
THE CUP OF FURY IJI
And then along came my friend Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr.,
who was also a devoted friend to Franklin Roosevelt; he told
me what it was like to be a "presidential agent," how it was
to go into the White House by the so-called "social door,"
which is really the back door. So Lanny Budd was taken to
President Roosevelt, too, and after that there was nobody
in the U.S. or Europe he couldn't meet, and nothing he
couldn't find out.
Volume V was Presidential Agent, and then later there
was Presidential Mission. In between these came A World to
Win, and it was taken by another book club, and more than
750,000 copies were sold. I try to guess why, and my theory
is that it happened because there were two young ladies in
the story competing for the love of the desirable hero, and
the reader was kept guessing as to which one was going to
In this book, I am afraid, there can be no element of
suspense. When one of a man's suitors is whiskey, the reader
does not have to guess "who is going to get him in the end."
I have known many men who drank; they were often men
who in other ways kept stern discipline on themselves — so
many words to be written every day, so many hours of relaxa-
tion, so many hours of research. In this one area of their lives,
however, there was no discipline. And gradually, this one
area became the whole area.
I have known just a few — three men, only two of whom
I can name — who reached the stage of "problem drinking"
and then stopped. The stories of two I reserve for the next
chapter. The third is Eugene O'Neill, the late playwright
who almost singlehandedly changed the course of the Ameri-
Eugene O'Neill came of a family of actors; he was a
wild boy, and was suspended from Princeton for throwing
172 THE CUP OF FURY
a beer bottle through a window in Woodrow Wilson's home.
He went away to sea, and — to quote the obituary report in
Time magazine — "His sea voyages were punctuated by
Homeric booze- feats ashore, a slum-bum stretch when he
lived at Jimmy the Priest's saloon in Manhattan and slept on
the hickory-topped tables, too broke to pay $3.00 a month
for a room; then he was brought up sharply by an attack
I have mentioned the Provincetown Players, organized
by George Cram Cook. They produced O'Neill's plays, and
their productions rocked the literary and theatrical worlds.
I remember seeing The Emperor Jones on Broadway, and
being hypnotized by it. I remember reading Moon of the
Carribees, and knowing that we had a real dramatist in our
midst. On the other hand, I was dismayed by the muddled
symbolism and confused allegory of The Great God Brown;
and when one of O'Neill's co-workers told me that the play-
wright went off "on drinking bouts that last two or three
weeks, so bad that his friends never know if they will be
able to pull him through," I wondered if this were not con-
tributing to the change in his work.
In 1932, George Jean Nathan wrote an affectionate por-
trait of O'Neill. And in one section of it, he told the story
of the dramatist's early drinking habits, and of his eventual
decision against liquor. I quote:
Years ago, he was a drinker of parts. In fact,
there were times when he went on benders that
lasted a whole month and times when he slept next
to the bung-hole of a whiskey barrel at Jimmy the
Priest's and when Jimmy, the proprietor, coming
to work the next morning, found the barrel one-
eighth gone . . .
The favorite tipple of the brotherhood, when
THE CUP OF FURY 1 73
one or another of the members — usually O'Neill,
who at intervals would contrive to cozen a dollar
out of his father — managed in some way to get
hold of the price, was, aside from the breakfast
rye, Benedictine drunk by the tumberful. But
such treats were rare and makeshifts were neces-
sary. Alcohol mixed with camphor was found —
after one got used to the taste — to have a pretty
effect. Varnish diluted with water was also dis-
covered to have its points. And there were days
when even wood alcohol mixed in small doses with
sarsaparilla, with just a soupcon of benzine to give
it a certain bouquet, was good enough, in the
brothers' view, for any man who wasn't a sissy . . •
About four or £ve years ago, however, he
hoisted himself onto the water-wagon and has sat
thereon with an almost Puritanical splendor and
tenacity. Like many another reformed bibber, he
now views the wine-cup with a superior dudg-
eon and is on occasion not averse to delivering
himself of eloquent harangues against it and its
O'Neill lived a life of incredible tragedy. He once at-
tempted suicide; he was twice divorced; his daughter Oona
was estranged from him; a son committed suicide; his
younger son had to be treated for narcotics addiction. He
became a victim of Parkinson's, a dreadful disease which
combines palsy and rigidity; and although science was finding
new drugs while O'Neill lived — drugs which for most vic-
tims offered at least some relief and help — he did not respond
All the tragedy of his life is mirrored in his plays; and
you can find it all, even the atmosphere of his youthful days
174 THE cup OF FURY
on the New York waterfront, in his last major drama, The
Iceman Cometh. The setting is a saloon like Jimmy the
Priest's. The characters are a flophouse assortment from all
classes and all parts of the world — a former British army
captain, a former leader of a Boer commando group, a circus
man, an ex-police lieutenant, two anarchists, a Harvard law-
school graduate, three neighborhood tarts, a bartender.
And then there's Hickey, a hardware salesman who has
come to urge them to "reform." He sends them out to regain
their places in the world outside the saloon, but in the fourth
act they all come back defeated, broken, making pathetic
excuses for themselves, trying once again to latch onto the
"pipe dreams" which make their misery one touch more
tolerable. They go back to the bottles which gave them false
It is a shattering play; it offers no hope, no future, no
reason for being. You know that once it was O'Neill's world,
that he shared these tragedies. You admire the way he firmly
refused to go back to the easy delusion of liquor. You can
only have pity for the tragedies which nonetheless came to
torment him. You can only wish that he found hope and
understanding before he died.
Not drinking is no easy passport to happiness, no auto-
matic assurance of a good and happy and creative life. What
it does do is to increase the odds enormously.
Some of the people who drink cannot abide the non-
drinker. They tell you that you are "socially unacceptable"
if you do not drink. They seize every opportunity to convert
you to their habits. I spoke not long ago with a beautiful
young woman who is a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, an
actress by profession. Just one sip of whiskey for her at this
point might very well mean the resumption of the chain-
THE CUP OF FURY 1 75
reaction of drink and drunkenness. Once it brought her to
the point of suicide. It almost ended her career even before
that awful night when she turned on the gas-jets in her home.
But do you think that each of her drinking acquaintances
accepts and understands her need for total abstention? No —
some of them urge her to "try it once again, it won't affect
you now." And one was so despicable recently as to put real
whiskey in her glass when she was rehearsing a bar-scene for
a Broadway show. Had she gulped it down in the belief that
it was merely the innocuous, colored liquid normally used
on stage, that one gulp might have cost her her life. Fortu-
nately, she smelled the liquor before it was too late, and was
When his friends were with him, Eugene O'Neill drank
Coca-Cola from whiskey glasses; thus he was spared their
urging to "have just one, it'll make you feel better." At
cocktail parties, I carry a glass of ginger ale to avoid being
conspicuous. At a dinner party, when I see a glass at my
plate, I wait until people are talking and paying no special
attention — then I quietly turn my glass upside down. If ques-
tioned by a servant, I merely say "No, thank you." If ques-
tioned by the hostess, I reply that "It doesn't agree with me."
If urged, I add that "I don't care for the taste." If merci-
lessly prodded and badgered, and my patience gives out, I
quietly remark, "You see — my father died of alcoholism."
I cast my vote against social drinking. I will not keep
a dog in my house that bites one of every five or nine people
who stoop to pet it. Nor will I sanction alcohol because it
dooms or harms "just" one of every five, nine or sixteen who
Look at the list of some of the people whose stories we've
seen in this book. These were men and women the world
needed — needed until they were seventy, eighty, ninety years
Ij6 THE CUP OF FURY
of age. Jack London, George Sterling, O. Henry, Stephen
Crane, Finley Peter Dunne, Eugene Debs, Sinclair Lewis,
Isadora Duncan, William Seabrook, Edna St. Vincent Millay,
George Cram Cook, Dylan Thomas, Sherwood Anderson —
great people, these, with God-given power to use their minds
and bodies for the betterment of our world. When they
should have been enjoying their fame, and feeling warm pride
at their contributions, they suffered instead.
Too many of them could echo these words by George
Clear-visioned with betraying night,
I count his merits o'er
And get no comfort from the sight,
Nor any cure therefor,
Vd mourn my desecrated years
(His mained and sorry twin,)
But well he knows my makeshift tears —
The man I might have been.
One of the most fascinating things in this world is
watching how new ideas are born in a free society — how
they take root — how like living plants they spread in fertile
An unknown young man named Edison sits in a shop
and labors at making threads out of hundreds of different
materials; and a few years later, all over the earth, night is
turned into day by electricity. Two brothers in a shed behind
a bicycle shop figure out the proper shape for an airplane
wing, and fifty years later the skies all over the world are
filled with jets. These were world-shaking ideas, but the
process is just as beautiful, just as vital when the "idea" is the
building of a church, a school, a hospital, a public playground.
Somebody perceives the need, he gets busy and spreads the
idea, a group is wrought and brought together, and the job
is put through.
178 THE CUP OF FURY
Often there are factions working against each other.
Such is the nature of life, such the conflict of motives and
ideas. For long years there have been groups fighting against
the sale of liquor, and there have been others spending mil-
lions to make more millions out of its sale. Yet whether it
was legal or illegal, the drinker drank. Victims fell by the
wayside, and there was nobody who could help them, no
refuge, no care, no hope. That condition existed all through
the early years of my life, when the men of my family were
being mowed down like grain before the scythe of the har-
vester. It existed all through my mature years, when my
literary friends and colleagues were sharing the same ghastly
fate. It existed up to the late thirties.
Then somebody had an idea, and tried it out, and
brought a group together, and Alcoholics Anonymous was
More than twenty-five years ago, my wife and I made
a new friend. He was a vigorous young man, spirited and
alert; and when the geography of our careers put many miles
between us, we kept in close and continual correspondence
through the mails. Then, suddenly, his replies stopped com-
ing. As completely as any person could, he disappeared. It
was years before we even heard of him again, and then the
news was that he was an alcoholic.
More years passed, and at last a letter came from our
friend. And it told us that he no longer drank. These were
no idle words, either. Our friend was happy and well and
useful. He was cured — he was free.
I wrote to him when this book began to take shape in
my mind. He is a writer, a capable craftsman in the com-
munication of ideas and experiences. I told him that I wanted
to give my book a "happy ending" — I wanted to end it with
THE CUP OF FURY 1 79
Here is his reply:
I am flattered that you wish to include me in
such illustrious company . . . you seem to have
known some of the most gifted drunks of the day.
I am free to tell anyone face to face that I am a
member of Alcoholics Anonymous. But on the
level of the press, the radio and the public platform
I must maintain anonymity. Experience has taught
us that this is important. There have been some
unhappy results when prominent people have
broken this rule, and so I must decline. I am so
grateful to AA for the new life it has given me,
that I could not violate this tradition. All that I
am today and all that I can possibly mean to others
in the future depends upon my sticking to the AA
program in every detail. I was doomed until I
found AA. Now I have the health and time to
do my work.
Enclosed with my friend's letter were four AA pamph-
lets. I read them, and then I got the book Alcoholics Anony-
mous. It is a book which opens the gates of hope for the
victims of alcoholism — those who want to quit, and those
who want to want to.
Alcoholics Anonymous, or "AA," as it is known all over
the world, celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 1955, with
a St. Louis convention attended by 15,000 happy and sober
delegates. In all there are more than 6,000 groups with over
200,000 members. Besides, there are nearly 1,000 "Al-Anon
Family Groups," where wives and families of alcoholics find
help with their problems.
AA was a living idea, and there was need for it, and it
spread. The edition of the book which I have was printed
in 1 9 so, and it lists thirteen reprintings up to that time; there
l8o THE CUP OF FURY
are more now, and it sells about 25,000 copies yearly. The
organization itself increases by about thirty percent each
Anybody can start a group. There are no dues. The
only initiation fee has been paid in long years of subservience
to alcohol. Anybody can be a member: AA's are just people
who have quit drinking, and who find that they can stay
quit by helping others to quit. It is a kind of community
enthusiasm which keeps spreading.
They don't get up and shout "Glory, hallelujah!" — they
are quiet people, and matter-of-fact about what they are
doing, but they feel a glow of satisfaction when they see the
thing that worked for them working for others. They are a
band of brethren, because they have all been in the same hell
and know exactly what it was like down there. They speak
and understand a private language, and are^ledged, one and
all, to come to the rescue of any mem ber who may find him-
self slipping or threatened withjyslip. The weakening mem-
ber calls one of his brethren, and that person is pledged to
drop everything else and come. And when he does come, he
knows what to say, because he has been there himself; and
the new member knows that he knows, and listens.
A A history dates from Armistice Day, 1934, when Bill
W., a World War I veteran and Wall Street broker, launched
what was to be the last of the series of brain-shattering
benders which for ten years had been dragging him toward
destruction. His wife, Lois, sustained until now by her hus-
band's brief periods of sobriety, was on the point of aban-
doning hope. Their doctor had informed her that the dreaded
"wet brain" stage, which would probably mean death or life
commitment to an institution, could not be far off.
Lois was keeping things together by working in a depart-
ment store; hence she was not at home the day an old drink-
THE CUP OF FURY iSl
ing-crony of Bill's came to call with an exceptional bit of
news — he had joined Frank Buchman's Oxford Group, and
was sober! Deeply impressed though still tipsy, Bill signed
in at a private "drying-out" hospital he'd visited many times
before. Here he thought over his friend's suggestions; and
although he'd left religion with childhood, Bill W. prayed.
There followed an inward experience so startling that he
questioned the staff psychiatrist, the late Dr. W. D. Silk-
worth, about his sanity. The doctor reassured him. Bill
emerged from the hospital not only sober, but on fire with
a desire to help other alcoholics find sobriety.
For a time his efforts met with consistent failure. Then,
while on a business trip to Akron in 1935, he found himself
weakening, tempted to drink again. Convinced that he could
maintain his own sobriety only by working with drunks, he
phoned the Akron churches seeking "prospects." He was put
in touch with an alcoholic surgeon, Dr. Bob S.
They were friends on sight. Dr. Bob sobered up, and
the two began interminable discussions of the problems of
getting sober and remaining so. They agreed that the methods
of the Oxford Group did not suit their new purpose, but that
certain of the principles it stressed — candor, restitution,
humility, and service — were essentials. These were formulated
in their famous "Twelve Suggested Steps." Neither Dr. Bob
nor Bill W. ever relapsed to drinking. The surgeon died,
honored and sober, in 1950. The ex-broker is still active in
From the beginning, their two wives — Dr. Bob's Anne
and Bill's Lois — were important partners in the movement.
They turned their homes into virtual rescue missions, over-
flowing with drunks. As more family men entered AA, there
were more wives to be encouraged and advised. The book
Alcoholics Anonymous, from which the society took its name,
1 82 THE CUP OF FURY
was published in 1939; and because of Lois's and Anne's ex-
perience, special chapters in it were addressed to the needs of
wives and families of alcoholics. When the first meetings
were held in members' homes, spouses chatted over coffee in
the kitchen while the AA's met in the living room. Some
wives went along on response to appeals for help ("twelfth
step calls"), talking with the sober spouse while the A A
members dealt with the inebriate. Later, in localities where
the A A tradition includes large "open" (to the public)
meetings, non-alcoholic members attended regularly.
It is really the Christian process of conversion, familiar
from New Testament days; but it labors to avoid being so
labeled. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Christian Scientists —
all are welcome. But so are those persons who dislike "reli-
gion" and shy from the word "God" because it means things
which seem to them to have no relation to reality. There is
a chapter in the book called "We Agnostics," which carefully
explains that you can use any name you please for the Higher
Power — you may even call it "IT."
Bernard Shaw called it the Life Force, with capital
letters, and the French philosopher Bergson called it the elan
vital, the vital impulse, without capitals. The anonymous
authors of Alcoholics Anonymous state their conception in
this way: "We needed to ask ourselves but one short ques-
tion: 'Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that
there is a Power greater than myself?' " And on that basis
they proceeded to lay out a Program of Recovery, of which
the first six steps read:
1. We admitted that we were powerless over alco-
hol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than our-
selves could restore us to sanity.
THE CUP OF FURY 1 83
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives
over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another
human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these
defects of character.
There is a miracle in these six steps. There is a miracle
in the decision to "turn our will and our lives over to the
care of God."
I have a friend named James H. Richardson; he is city
editor of the Los Angeles Examiner, and during his astonish-
ing career he has had the task of digging out and telling some
of the most sensational crime stories of the past thirty years.
There were two interruptions in this career, both of them
caused by the fact that Jim was an alcoholic. He tells the
story in a book titled For the Life of Me, sparing none of
the agonies of his experiences.
In it he tells how it all came to an end. Jim was lying
in a hospital, in a state of tortured degradation and despair.
He heard someone at his bedside, and he looked up. It was
the Mother Superior of the hospital, gazing down at him,
"her white, white hands interlaced below her silver crucifix."
Her words were gentle:
"Is there anything I can do to help?" she asked.
"You can help a lot," Richardson answered. "You can
talk to God about me, if you have time."
"That's the only time I have," she said.
Before he left that hospital, Jim Richardson made up
his mind that he would never take another drink while he
lived. The doctors laughed at him; they had heard this sort
of thing before. But faith worked for Richardson, and it has
184 THE CUP OF FURY
worked for thousands of members of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Three out of four of the men and women who join the group
recover. Three out of four!
Read the last six steps of the Program for Recovery:
7. (We) humbly asked Him to remove our short-
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and be-
came willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people whenever pos-
sible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when
we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve
our conscious contact with God as we understood Him,
praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the
power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result
of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics
and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
There it is, you see, the New Life, starting over and over
again in the human soul, the same throughout the ages. It will
go on as long as human life exists; it had to go on if human
life were to begin. It is always choosing new forms, and
especially new names, since the old lose their power by asso-
ciation with human weakness and corruption. Here, among
Americans, it is associated with one practical purpose — the
delivering of human beings from enslavement.
These people of Alcoholics Anonymous have learned
from actual experience what I learned from watching my
alcoholic relatives and friends — that the drink which the
person afflicted with the disease alcoholism cannot take is not
the third nor the fifth nor the eleventh, but the first To
refuse the first, however, he must have help; not merely the
help of friends and associates, but of that mysterious thing
THE CUP OF FURY l8$
which is hidden in the depths of his own soul, and which
doesn't in the least care what name you choose to give It.
But it's the same power many of us call our Heavenly Father.
The AA's know how to implement their decision of
faith with practical tools and tested advice. The newcomer in
their midst sees and hears men and women who were once
"dead drunk." He sees their happiness, sees that they are
recovered, and he feels their surging drive and compassion.
He says, "I can do it too!" If he can be sobered up and kept
from drink for just twenty-four hours, he is on the way.
He doesn't give up liquor "forever" at this point — just a day
at a time, until days becomes weeks and weeks become years.
And always there are his brethren, and the practical advice
in their book. He can turn to such chapters as "Working
with Others," "The Family Afterward," "To Employers,"
and "A Vision for You." And in it he can read personal
stories, much the same in their beginnings as those stories
which have appeared in this book of mine. But there's one
big difference — the people you read about in the AA book
For those who are alcoholics — the AA is perhaps the
For those who have not yet had their first drink — the
wisdom and courage to say "No" is the answer.
For those who have seen the misery and understood the
devastation caused by drink — a continuing fight is the
We must fight for a nation in which men and women
no longer seek the false stimulation and the fake security,
the humbug happiness and the counterfeit strength of liquor.
To these ends we must devote our knowledge and our talents
and our time.
So long as men are lost to the cup of fury, our fight must
THE CDP OF POET
in American colleges
in the United States
and job accident rate
and traffic casualties
Bacon, Selden D.
Bland, John Randolph
Book About Myself, A
Brinnin, John Malcolm
Brooks, Van Wyck
25, 42, 92-94
Cairns, Huntington 140
Child of the Century, A 132-134
City Editor 152
Communism 111-116, 118, 1 21-127
Confident Years, The 41
Cook, George Cram 87-89, 172, 176
Crane, Hart 47, 139-144, 150
Crane, Stephen 42, 46, 47, 176
Cry for Justice, The 166
Debs, Eugene V. 48, 49, 176
Dell, Floyd 82, 88, 122
Devil's Dictionary, The 75
Dragon's Teeth 170
Dreiser, Helen Richardson,
Drinking in College 154-158
Duncan, Isadora 82-84, 176
Dunne, Finley Peter 48, 176
Dylan Thomas in America 144-147
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
For the Life of Me
14, 69, 91
Harden, Harry 24, 25, 36
Hartman, Sadakichi 133
Hearst, William Randolph 48
Hecht, Ben 119, 132, 134
Helicon Home Colony,
62-65, 69, 70, 72
History of American Poetry, A 1 39
Iceman Cometh, The
Jennie Gerhardt 119
John Barleycorn 11-14, 106, 161-165
Journal of Arthur Stirling, The 45
Jungle, the 55, 56, 58-62
"Keeley Cure, The" 28
Kimbrough, Mary Craig (see Sin-
League for Industrial Democracy 50
Lewis, Alfred Henry 99
Lewis, Sinclair 14, 63-69, 121, 129
Limits of Art, The 140
advertising 148, 149, 159, 160*
industry 148, 149, 158
Liveright, Horace 121, 129, 132, 133
London, Jack n, 12, 14, 42, 43,
50-55, 57, 60, 66, 71, 74-76,
to6, 150, 160-166, 176
Los Angeles Examiner 183
Love's Pilgrimage 19-22
Man Prom Main Street.
Sinclair Lewis Reader
Mencken, H. L.,
75, 76, 92-98, 122, 129
Meyerhoff, Hans 146, 147
Milky, Edna St. Vincent 85, 90, 176
Millennium, The 134
Miller, Perry 68
Minutes of the Last Meeting 133
Mr. Dooley 48
Modern American Poetry 140
Money Writes 66, 89
Montague, Lelia 26, 136-138
Montague, Powhattan 26, 136, 137
Montague, William P. 64, 65
My Life With Dreiser 104
Nathan, George Jean 172
New Republic, The 146, 147
New York Sun 65
New York Times 61, 86, 87, 130
No Hiding Place 106
O. Henry 14, 42, 45, 46, 176
O'Neill, Eugene 88, 171-175
Open Boat, The 47
Pontecorvo, Dr. Armo
Porter, William Sydney
(see O. Henry)
Presidential Agent 171
Presidential Mission 171
Prohibition 92, 93, 131, 148, 165
Pulitzer Prize 85, 170
Red Badge of Courage, The 47
Reporter, The 123, 146
Richardson, James H. 183
Road to the Temple, The 88, 89
Sane Society, The 131
Saturday Evening Post 60, 61
Saturday Review, The 160
Seabrook, William 105, 106, 176
Shapley, Harlow 101
Shaw, George Bernard 76, 182
Sinclair, Commander Arthur 23
Sinclair, Commodore Arthur,
22, 23, 108
Sinclair, Craig 16-18, 76-81, 103,
104, 109-112, 166-169
Sinclair, Lelia 137
boyhood 14, 15, 22-32
EPIC campaign 15, 97, 108-113
education 32, 33, 36, 37
religious philosophy 14-18
Sinclair, Upton B. 19, 22-24, 26-29,
32, 34, 36, 72, 73
72, 76, 80
42-44, 71-76, 80,
82, 95, 96, 150, 165, 166, 176
Story-Teller's Story, A 1 18- 1 19
Straus, Robert 154
Testimony of the Suns, The 43
Thomas, Dylan 144-147, 150, 176
"Thunder Over Mexico" 1 1 5-1 2 1
Time iyj, 172
Turning Point, The 129
Valley of the Moon, The
"Violence of Dylan Thomas,
Wet Parade, The
Windsor, Duchess of
Windsor, Duke of
Windy McP 'her son's Son
Wine of Wizardry, The
Woodward, William E.
World To Win
The cup of fury, main
3 lEbE 032Sb A3A7